A crowd of about 60 people gathered at the Southern Village Shopping Center on Saturday to speak out against incidents of police brutality across the country while also advocating for racial equality.
The demonstration was one of many across the state and the nation this weekend following the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man who was killed while in Minneapolis police custody May 25. His death has sparked national outrage and has sparked a wave of protest with some turning violent.
The event labeled as a peace rally by its organizers started around 3 p.m. The demonstration featured several short speeches from local community leaders as well as volunteers who registered people to vote and passed out face coverings to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
“I want to assure you our police are not allowed to do what that officer in Minnesota did. They are trained not to hold people down so they can’t breathe. That is bad police work. That is not something police should be doing. And I would hope that those folks in Minnesota are gonna make that clear too in their government,” Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland told the crowd Saturday afternoon.
“Lastly I want to make sure you understand that we in city government do not plan to be defensive. We plan to work with people in the community to look at our procedures and make sure that our procedures are appropriate and our police officers are taught to do the right thing,” he added.
Demonstrators also stood near the road chanting Floyd’s name along with several other unarmed black men and women who were recently killed by police or by fellow citizens.
Those honored by the demonstrators Saturday afternoon included Breonna Taylor, who was killed by officers with the Louisville Metro Police Department, and Ahmad Aubrey, who was killed by two white men in Georgia.
“I feel like today is a good time to organize an event because while this is for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and Ahmad Aubrey, this is also about systemic racism that we’re fighting and injustice,” said Demoni’ Ramey, a Springfield High School alum and recent Miami University graduate.
“So I feel like this is a good way to bring our communities together to show that it’s not black vs. white. We’re just unity. Right vs wrong. We’re trying to get people out to vote also so we can change our system,” she added.
The event was not organized by a specific group but by a local resident Jaime Moore. However she wanted to give credit to several “young aspiring leaders” including Ramey and fellow SHS grad Richard Eichie.
“If we get rid of the underlying conditions and start educating people as a whole I truly do believe that change can happen,” said Eichie, who recently received a degree from Clark State.
He said that rallies such as the one that occurred Saturday afternoon and another one that was held last weekend in downtown Springfield, which involved hundreds of people, are the best ways to educate people about challenges faced by African American communities across the country.
Ramey added that it just doesn’t end at the protest stage.
“I feel like actions speak louder than words honestly. There are other people looking up to us, and no change isn’t going to be made overnight just by us doing these things,” she said. “But at least if we make our mark and leave a blueprint for the next generation so they can make a change maybe it will be a better place for all of us.”
Eichie agreed adding that it is important for people to vote.
“We’re not telling people who to vote for, but I do know young people have a history of not voting a lot in numbers so that has been my goal along with educating people. We need to get our young people in the polls.”
Local clergy members in Clark County announced this week that they are creating an advisory committee that aims to address and combat systemic racism while working with local law enforcement agencies.
Other community leaders were also present at the event Saturday afternoon, including Dorian Hunter, the youth chair for the Springfield Unit of the NAACP. He led the crowd in chants such as “Black Lives Matter” and “Power of the people won’t stop.” He also talked about issues facing residents of Springfield’s south side, including the area being a food desert following the closing of the Kroger on South Limestone Street.
“We have to be one community and hold each other accountable,” Hunter said. “We have to continue to fight, continue to persevere and we’ll continue to make change.”
Members of the Conscious Connect were also present and were passing out free culturally relevant children books. The group aims to make literature more accessible in areas classified as “book deserts.”
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