Hundreds of people protested, marched and chanted against police brutality across Athens on Tuesday.
The Athens peaceful rally for POC victims of police brutality officially started at 2 p.m. after a crowd of about 100 people gathered at the Athens County Courthouse at 1:40 p.m.
Some of the protesters immediately took to the top stairs of the courthouse to raise their concerns of police brutality against people of color to start off the rally.
Keshawn Mellon, a senior studying acting, shared his personal experiences. In one instance on Ohio University’s campus, Mellon was chased home by a group of white men who yelled the N-word at him, according to a previous Post report.
Mellon also led an eight-minute moment of silence in honor of George Floyd, a black Minnesota man who was killed by a police officer who held his knee on Floyd’s back and neck for over eight minutes. During the tribute, demonstrators across the intersection kneeled, raised their fists and bowed their heads.
Genesis Vaughn, a protestor and self-described revolutionist, said peaceful protesting isn’t enough to win the fight of racial inequality.
“I have one question for all of you who have come to what is supposed to be a peaceful protest,” Vaughn said. “What is the purpose of peace? Why do we resort to being peaceful?”
Vaughn addressed worries about property being damaged when the institutions being burnt down suppress people of color.
“So, why do we have peace?” Vaughn said. “Is it because of comfort? Is it because it makes us happy, or are we just pacifying ourselves, pacifying our voices and shutting down our own righteous anger?”
Vaughn ended her speech with a call-and-response, with words from Assata Shakur, a black social activist.
“It is our duty to fight for our freedom,” Vaughn said.
Protestors echoed back: “It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”
Demonstrators chanted call-and-responses throughout the day, such as “Say his name: George Floyd”; “Say her name: Breonna Taylor”; “No justice, no peace”; “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.”; “Brick by brick, wall by wall, we will make the system fall.”
delfin bautista, the former director of OU’s LGBT Center who uses they/them pronouns and does not capitalize letters in their name, also led the crowd by chanting, “When do we want justice? When do we want it?” as protesters responded with “now.”
“Respect our existence because if you don’t, you will meet resistance,” bautista said.
By 3 p.m., protesters not only filled the steps and outer area of the courthouse, but the opposite side of the street near Chase Bank. All four corners of the Washington Street and Court Street intersection were full of demonstrators.
Jade Kiener, a senior studying psychology and sociology, said the rally took on a special meaning, as June is Pride Month.
“I’m thankful for my rights,” Kiener said. “They came from people working for their rights at stuff like this. I’m here to play a part — to show that I care.”
Some passers-by voiced opposition from their vehicles, including one individual who notably displayed a Confederate flag. In another instance, individuals kneeled on the Court Street bricks near the traffic light. He was then called out by his fellow protesters to move, and those with microphones on the courthouse steps asked for protesters to not block the road.
Around 3 p.m, demonstrators took to Court Street to walk toward College Green. Demonstrating in the street made protesters at risk for arrest.
Sharell Arocho-Wise found herself singing in the middle of Court Street at her first-ever protest. Arocho-Wise belted out “We Shall Overcome” as a fellow demonstrator kept rhythm with a tambourine.
Arocho-Wise, an OU employee, chose to sing because music makes people tune into their emotions and unite, she said.
“It’s a song about everyone coming together,” Arocho-Wise said.
The crowd of about 500 people walked through College Green and past Schoonover Center, returning to the sidewalks on North College Street. Protestors then looped back up Washington Street and returned to the courthouse.
Around 4:10 p.m, protesters walked toward College Green through Court Street again. The massive crowd flooded the brick streets, causing cars to stop or back up until protesters were through.
The protesters returned back to the courthouse, where there were some final speeches and chants made before the protest ended around 5 p.m.
Mellon addressed the crowd once more at the end of the protest.
“Start demanding answers from our leaders,” Mellon said. “Start asking questions.”