MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Chants of “black lives matter,” “George Floyd,” and “no justice, no peace” echoed through downtown on Tuesday morning and afternoon as hundreds of people gathered to protest.
The protest was for George Floyd, an African American man from Minneapolis, Minnesota, who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer recently. Protesters waved around handmade posters, spoke through a megaphone while mostly gathering around the Monongalia County Courthouse on High St., demanding justice for Floyd and an end to police brutality. Samantha Norris, one of the co-organizers said when she saw the protests erupt in Minneapolis and the video of Floyd’s death she knew she couldn’t keep her outrage contained.
“It’s showing that we are not quiet, we’re not going to sit down, we’re not going to lay down, we’re going to be loud, we’re going to be proud and we’re going to make sure this keeps going,” Norris said.
One of the hundreds of protesters in the crowd on Tuesday was Chidera Nwoko who said it was simply amazing to see so many people coming out to support the same cause.
“I feel that it is disgusting that black people are killed walking in the daytime, running at nighttime, wearing hoodies, going to movie theaters, sleeping, being in their home,” Nwoko said. “It is completely unjust and unfair and we have been waiting for such a long, since Trayvon, for things to change and they still haven’t and it’s finally time for us to stand up and say this is wrong and this cannot continue anymore.”
Nwoko said her worst fear was that only a few people would show up or that many would show up, but only a few would be in the true spirit of protesting. Instead, she said there were so many people chanting and so many speeches made through a speaker that she had to shout to talk.
For many, the worst-case scenario they envisioned was violence and looting as been seen in many cities like Minneapolis, Washington, D.C. and New York City. However, Norris said she met with the City’s Police Department and the County’s Sheriff’s Department to figure out a strategy to keep everyone safe by preventing violence.
Julious Pettis, a protester, said there was no room for violence in their protest because peace and equality are what they were promoting. Pettis said it wouldn’t have mattered if Floyd were a white man because what matters the most is that when someone is killed there needs to be justice for the action.
“If he would’ve been white this should’ve still happened because they abused their authority and that’s what we need to stop,” Pettis said. “We need to stop the cops from abusing their authority and hold them accountable for their actions.”
Even when protesting is done peacefully and can gather hundreds, that is not enough. Norris, the co-organizer, said advocacy doesn’t just mean protesting in the streets, but so much more.
She said advocacy extends to voting and putting in power the types of leaders that will bring about change protesters are demanding.
“That’s why we’re advocating so much for registering to vote, getting out there on June 9, getting out there for the November Election, keeping up with local politics,” Norris said. “April 2021 Morgantown has another city council election, we need to make sure everyone is there for that election too.”