Protesters peacefully assemble on Center Street corner
As violent riots continue across the country in response to the death of George Floyd, a group of people in Marshalltown are setting an example of peaceful protesting.
On Sunday, 20 people gathered on the corner of Anson and Center streets.
Protesters held signs with statements such as “Stop killing black people,” “Justice 4 George Floyd,” “I can’t breathe” and “I’m not black, but I stand up!”
The Marshalltown movement was started by Holly Hayes who felt the urge to do something after she watched a video of Floyd, 46, being suffocated by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. An almost 10-minute long video showed Chauvin kneeling on the neck of Floyd who begged for his life and other officers nearby, doing nothing. Chauvin was fired from his job, arrested on Friday and has been charged with murder.
After seeing the video, Hayes simply sat on the corner with her sign. She quickly drew support of other Marshalltown residents who wanted to join, such as Chandra Fleming.
“I said she started a movement,” Fleming said. “I saw a post on Facebook of her sitting here and I messaged her, said I would like to join her.”
Hayes and Fleming said one rule everyone is following is that there will be no violence and no yelling at or fighting with drivers who shout vulgarities.
“We have had people give us the middle finger, shout ‘F you’ and ‘white power,'” Hayes said.
When that happens, the protesters respond with positive messages, such as “God bless you.”
“When people do that, we know we are getting inside their heads,” Fleming said. “We are peaceful, sitting here and holding signs. If they are offended by that, they are part of the problem, not the solution.”
Fleming said their action is not a riot, which she described as the “voice of the unheard,” but instead it is peaceful protesting. She used part of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s quote to back up peaceful protesting, “Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”
Even though there have been some negativity pointed toward the protesters, the vast majority of drivers have been shouting encouragement or honking horns in solidarity.
“Honking is positive feedback,” Fleming said. “They are letting us know they support the cause. It lets us know we are not here for nothing. People realize something needs to be done.”
Hayes and Fleming stressed the stance they were taking is not anti-police, but rather about raising awareness.
Another protester was Taylor Bear who joined the small crowd as soon as she was able.
“As a black person in Marshalltown, in Iowa, in the United States, I felt it was important to use a platform and unite with everyone as brothers and sisters,” Bear said.
Bear’s heart broke as she watched the video of Floyd’s death.
“It is unthinkable, unspeakable to treat someone who is a person like that,” Bear said. “I think it natural to feel angry about it as we process it and move on.”
Protesters Theresa Atkins and Jessica Catron sat together with their signs.
“She is my friend and her life matters,” Catron said. “So does hers and everyone else’s.”
Protester Shanna Draper said she hopes white people will begin speaking about the situation and get past the feelings of discomfort such conversations might create.
“I believe the silence and white privilege is a thing,” Draper said. “I believe all lives will not matter until black lives matter.”
POLICE DEPARTMENT ON PROTESTS:
Marshalltown Police Department Chief Mike Tupper said the department has received several messages, calls and emails from concerned citizens about planned protests and/or riots happening Sunday night in Marshalltown. The information is being taken seriously and the police department can provide the following information:
• There are no active permits in place for lawful protests scheduled for Sunday.
• The police department will have additional staff available to address issues as they arise.
• The downtown area may be a focus of this activity.
“We appreciate so many of you who have seen these posts and said something to us already,” Tupper said. “You can help us further by reporting any more concerns to us by calling 911 or 641-754-5725 for non-emergency matters. Be safe, everyone.”
Contact Lana Bradstream at email@example.com