Thousands flock to protest organized by local alums
As the world turns its eyes to America with protests against racial injustice and police brutality filling cities across the county, many in Fayette County are speaking out and marching for their neighbors with local demonstrations joining calls for action around the globe.
After other demonstrators earlier in the week, the momentum swelled with a massive protest on Saturday, June 6.
Spearheaded by a quartet of local alums, Sandy Creek grads RJ Howard, Logan Bolton, and Raven Neal, and Fayette County High grad David Osilaja, an estimated group of more than 3,000 gathered at the Fayetteville Pavilion and marched to Fayetteville City Hall.
“We wanted to let our voice be heard in our community. As black youth in the Fayette County area, we have experienced the same racial injustices in some way, so we wanted to let our voices be heard in the community to let everyone know we won’t continue to let racism plague our country, especially our community,” said Howard. “It was amazing seeing so many people united and marching for a common goal.”
Organizers, community leaders, and others spoke, sharing messages of hope, togetherness, and a promise for positive change.
“It was important for us to have something in our own hometown because Fayetteville has definitely had incidents of racism and prejudice in the past,” said Bolton. “I graduated from Sandy Creek in 2017 and still remember how uncomfortable some of my peers felt with law enforcement as a result of the systemic oppression they’d experienced. We wanted to be loud in our own community and demonstrate a unified front against these types of injustices.”
Bolton was encouraged by the amount of support they received.
“It was amazing to see the community rally in so many different ways. While thousands were marching, hundreds were honking their horns in solidarity, passing out water bottles on the side of the road, and standing on the sidewalk with signs and cameras,” she said. “The organizers and I thought it was important to emphasize that this was a peaceful protest, and we were glad that there were no incidents of violence. We didn’t want anything to detract from the message of the march.”
The protest was the brainchild of the quartet, and Fayetteville Police Chief Scott Gray, Deputy Chief Robert Mask, Fayetteville Mayor Ed Johnson, and Mayor Eric Dial were instrumental in figuring out the logistics.
“We at the Fayetteville Police Department take pride in the relationship that we have with our community. We have and always will only see one race, the human race. This was on full display during the march,” the Fayetteville Police Department posted on Facebook, along with photos from the march. “We do not hide from fear, discrimination, or injustice. We will forever be on the front line with our community to support peace, faith, and unity. We will always be strong, but this makes us stronger.”
Howard said they were swarmed with offers to help before the march and with words of thanks afterwards.
The march represented the first steps on the long road to equality.
Bolton is excited to build on the positive feedback they have received, and they are talking about additional protests and community events.
“Ultimately, we’re not done,” she said. “This was just the beginning in the fight for justice against systemic racism.”
Howard knows nothing will happen if we’re too afraid to talk.
“We have to continue the fight. A couple weeks of protesting won’t change the decades of racial injustice. I want to make sure that the younger generation knows voting brings change.I also want to have a county-wide town hall meeting where the black population in the community can express how they feel to our city officials and law enforcement,” he said. “We need to get these uncomfortable conversations going to start working towards change.”