Two peaceful protests were held in downtown Athens over the weekend in response to the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.
The protests are apart of Black Lives Matter, a movement formed in 2013 following the death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, a black teenager killed in Florida.
Saturday’s protest began at the Athens County Courthouse, where around 100 people gathered with signs with various statements like, “Black Lives Matter”, “Justice for George Floyd”, and “I can’t breathe” – the last words said by Floyd before he died.
Floyd’s last words were also the last words of Eric Garner, a black man who died after being choked by a New York City police officer in 2014.
The demonstration included a march down Court Street and through College Green on Ohio University’s campus.
Sunday’s protest followed a similar format with the addition of a few protesters standing in the street while traffic drove around them. Sunday’s protest drew a larger crowd of around 150 people.
Saturday’s protest was organized by Brooklyn Stallworth, an Athens native, and Johanna Antonuccio, both OU seniors. They organized the protest by posting on Facebook that a demonstration would be taking place.
Growing up in Athens, Stallworth said that the large turnout on short notice didn’t surprise her as Athens is a diverse population with a history of activism.
“I’m not shocked by the turnout, but I’m very proud of Athens,” Stallworth said. Stallworth decided to start the protest because of how frequent death’s like Floyd’s occur.
“I’m tired. I’m tired of worrying about my dad and my brothers. I’m tired of seeing it,” Stallworth said.
Athens’ protest was peaceful, with water bottles and face masks being passed out by some participants. A few members of local law enforcement were reported on social media to have posed for a photo with protesters during the event, though none were present at the time coverage.
Around the country, some protests have been accompanied by looting and violence. Various national news outlets have reported on the destruction of property and police brutality towards protesters and journalists who covered the events.
Stallworth has mixed feelings on the looting seen at other protests.
“I don’t agree with the looting, but I also do. How many times do we have to talk about the same thing? How many times do we have to ask for equal treatment? We are people,” Stallworth said.
Athens community member Mary Tigner-Rasanen feels that it is her responsibility and the responsibility of other white individuals to step up during protests.
“Every white person of conscious needs to act now to end racism, specifically racist action by police officers. It’s everybody’s business,” Tigner-Rasanen said. “The problem is, white people get riled up when there is an incident and then go back to their normal lives. We can’t look away anymore.”