Protesters rally around racism issues, inequity

Black Life Matters movement, death of George Floyd focuses attention on race issues

While the death of George Floyd has dominated national news for days since his death on May 25, it does not get nearly as much attention in small town America, according to Esther Mergerson.

“We are peacefully protesting the life of George Floyd and all other Black Americans who have been unlawfully killed by police brutality and racism as a whole,” she said. “We have people of all different colors, all different ages. Everyone out here is trying to support and spread the message we should be supporting love and peace and not war.”

Mergerson is a 2019 graduate of Center High School who is attending Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia. She said the issues she and others were protesting is vitally important to her.

“I'm a young black woman and I have been living in Center, Texas my whole life,” she said. “So to know the injustice has effected as many people as it has, I'm here to spread my message and give my voice and not be afraid of what others think of me.”

Mergerson said there had been some voicing opposition to what the group was doing. She said the protesters were not letting that slow them down.

Several vehicles passed with music blaring and some occupants flipping off the protesters with a vulgar finger signal.

Mariah Nash was among participants and organizers of an event held on one of Center's busiest streets to bring attention to the death of Floyd, racism and ethnic inequality.

“We're bringing awareness to what's going on right now,” Nash said. She said there is not enough awareness to the situation which led to Floyd's death as Minneapolis police officers pinned him down and who are charged with causing his death.

“Some people are taking this serious and some people aren't,” she said. “We're just trying to bring attention and support to what's going on.”

Nash said she was surprised at the amount of support the protesters had.

Rylee Morris was one of the organizers of the protest held Tuesday afternoon. She said while Floyd's death at the knee of Minneapolis police officers has gained the nation's attention, the same underlying issues of racism are alive in rural communities like Center.

“It can go under recognized in small towns,” said the 2018 Center High School graduate. “We just want to show support and help people realize that 'Black Lives Matter.'”

Morris said organizers hoped the event would be peaceful on their end.

Mergerson led a chant asking “What do we want?” The group responded “Justice!” She asked “when do we want it?” The response from the group was “Now.”

The arrest of Floyd in late May turned fatal, leaving Floyd unable to breathe, even as he and onlookers called out for help.

The day after Floyd’s death, the Minneapolis Police Department fired all four of the officers involved in the episode. Murder and manslaughter charges were filed against Derek Chauvin, the officer who can be seen most clearly in witness videos pinning Floyd to the ground.

Chauvin, who is white, kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, according to the criminal complaint against him. Video shows that Chauvin did not remove his knee even after Floyd lost consciousness, and for a full minute after paramedics arrived at the scene.

The three other former officers, Thomas Lane, J. Alexander Kueng and Tou Thao — all of whom can be seen in our video participating in Floyd’s arrest — remain under investigation, according to wire reports of his death.

For more photos from Tuesday's peaceful protest, please visit:

For video from the event, please visit the Light and Champion's Facebook:

The Light and Champion

137 San Augustine St.
Center TX 75935