Cries of “no justice, no peace” and the names of George Floyd, a Minneapolis man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes, and Breonna Taylor, a Louisville woman who was killed in her bed by officers, rang Saturday evening throughout Hillsboro.
Community members joined in a Black Lives Matter protest, which took them down West Main Street to the Highland County Courthouse, where they had the opportunity to share and listen to personal experiences and motivations.
Among those who spoke in front of the courthouse was Eleanor Curtis Cumberland, whose mother, Imogene Curtis, marched with other mothers and students against the segregation of Hillsboro’s elementary schools beginning in 1954. The marches ended three years and one Supreme Court case, which the mothers won, later. Those mothers are known today as Hillsboro’s Lincoln School Marching Mothers.
In front of the courthouse, protesters knelt in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck on May 25.
According to CNN, Chauvin was arrested four days after Floyd’s death and is charged with second-degree murder. His bail has been set to $1.25 million.
When protesters resumed marching, they followed North High Street to East Collins Street to East Street to West Walnut Street to South Elm Street.
Along the route, community members with organizations like the Hillsboro Church of Christ and Samaritan Outreach Services passed out cold bottles of water and Gatorade to protesters.
After the protest, organizers retraced the protest’s route to ensure no trash was left behind.
On Monday, the protest’s organizers told The Times-Gazette they’re proud of Hillsboro, but there’s still work to do.
“Honestly, this was more amazing than I could’ve ever imagined,” organizer Hailee Williams said in a Facebook message. “To see our community come together as one was so beautiful. I just want everyone to know that there is still so much more work to be done. Saturday is proof that together we can make such a positive impact on Hillsboro and become the change.”
Organizer Shawn Captain said, “The fight has to go beyond the protest. Racial profiling and racism in general are prevalent in Hillsboro, so if you see something then say something! If you turn a blind eye to the world now, history will turn a blind eye to you later. Ignoring an issue makes you a tacit supporter of it. ‘The future belongs to those who prepare for it today,’ — Malcolm X.”
Organizer Jordan Angelo Opst said, “I think it’s important for white people to realize that right now is our time to listen to and follow the Black leaders in our communities. It is not our place to speak over our Black neighbors. It is our job to listen, understand, admit complicity and work to undo the systems that have been built by and for white folks. Police departments say they ‘protect and serve,’ but history has shown us that the police protect property over humanity, and especially over Black lives.
“While Hillsboro police and the Highland County sheriff did everything they could to protect our first amendment rights, that is not the experience of Black folks living their daily lives. Nor is it the experience of peaceful protesters nationwide, where we have been met with more brutality. The country is waking up to the idea that the policing system we have used for generations is fundamentally unreformable, and I would urge the citizens of Hillsboro to seriously consider whether their tax dollars may be better spent elsewhere.
“We need to divest from policing and invest in Black and underserved communities in the forms of affordable housing, health care, job access, and education. As it stands, our police are simply asked to do too much. No one person should be expected to be sensitive to every single social and economic issue. Police respond to everything from domestic violence to vandalism to our children’s schools. We need to defund and disband police departments to the extent that armed officers only respond to the most urgent, life-threatening emergencies.”
Organizer Desiree Keyser said, “I would love to publicly thank all the volunteers and those who donated to our cause as well as the photographers. The Hillsboro police and sheriff for working with us to ensure everyone’s safety. It was definitely a win for us!”
Organizer John Keyser said, “I’d like to say thank you to the members of the community who came together to make all this happen, we truly saw a community come together, but unfortunately we also saw that racism is alive and kicking, even in our small town, but we are in for the long fight, the good fight, the fight for equality all across the board, and to Hillsboro, Ohio, we will be back…”
Protests were also held in Chillicothe on Saturday, during which Chillicothe Mayor Luke Feeney announced the city of Chillicothe will review its use of force policies in the Chillicothe Police Department, according to The Chillicothe Gazette.
How white people can help their Black neighbors, according to organizer Jordan Angelo Opst:
*Donate your time — “Being here is a good way to donate your time to this movement and better understand what it is we’re fighting for. You can also relinquish your time to the Black leaders of your community. Let them speak. Do not speak over them. Don’t try to censor the Black community — you’re here to listen and to learn.”
*Donate your energy — “If you are a creative artist, get inspired. There are a million ways to do it — just get creative.”
*Donate your money — “Support your local Black-owned businesses. Defund police departments and reinvest that money in underserved communities.”
*Donate your body — “As white folks, we have an obligation to use our privilege to help. In moments like this, it’s not uncommon to see police acting brutally towards Black people. You can insert yourself between that officer and that Black person, knowing that when the officer sees a white body on the other side of that weapon, that might make them reconsider what they’re doing. On the other hand, it may also not. The work of an ally is tiring. This is a battle you will fight until the day you die. You have the ability to pick and choose which days you care about institutional racism, which is a uniquely white experience.”
Reach McKenzie Caldwell at 937-402-2570.