Marchers hold peaceful Black Lives Matter protest

Staff Writer
Wellington Daily News
Protesters at the Black Lives Matter demonstration hold signs.

Around 2 to 300 people peacefully participated in the Black Lives Matter march, Saturday to protest racism and police brutality against blacks.

A mixed crowd of black, white, Hispanic, young and old gathered at Heritage Park next to Memorial Auditorium to take part in the march. Pastor Zane Brooks of Freewill Baptist Church called for healing in the community and said a prayer to lead off the event.

Protests marches have been going on nationwide since the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota when a police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck. The officer and the other three officers involved have since been fired from the police force and arrested.

Marchers, most of them wearing face masks, walked down Eighth Street and congregated in the old Chisholm Trail Inn parking lot and across the road from it in a park area. People held signs bearing such messages as “Black Lives Matter” and “No justice, no peace.” Wellington Police officers handed free bottles of water to the protesters. Interaction between the officers and the crowd was harmonious.

Latrice Cook, who said her great grandparents helped start the NAAC in Wellington spoke into a microphone, telling the crowd, “There shouldn’t even be a debate about equality. It’s a human right. This movement is so important to me because I have younger siblings growing up who possibly could be racially profiled. I worry about them especially growing up in this community that is predominantly white and we have a police department that is predominantly white.”

Julie Carey, a Wellington teacher, said, “I'm just sick about what’s happened. We’re too good for this. It needs to end. Bad cops need to go to jail.”

Her daughter, Lily McGuire, 9, “That you would treat anybody different than anybody else is kind of wrong. Everyone should have equal rights.”

Laura Lombard, a Democrat running for the fourth district U.S. congressional seat against Rep. Ron Estes, told the crowd, “We know that racism is an endemic problem in our society. We know that along with coronavirus, racism is one of the most contagious and deadly diseases we have. This year while we battle coronavirus, let’s also let this be the year that we battle racism.”

Lombard told the crowd to elect people who are going to help in the effort to fight racism and she called on the crowd to challenge friends or relatives who say racist things.

J.J. Proctor, quoted from a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. “It’s not enough to not be racist. You have to ant-racist.”

A white woman named Jenny who said she moved to Wellington two months ago, said she grew up in a racist home.

“It hurts me it hurts people in my family,” she said. “I just want to let every black person here know i think you matter, I love you, if there’s anything i can do for anybody, just let me know.”

Keith Reagor, a black man, said, mentioned a protest elsewhere in the United States where police stepped away from black protesters when they saw white people in front of them, holding hands.

“If that’s what it takes for us to be seen and heard, then we gladly accept your help,” he said. “The challenge I have for the police department that’s here today - thank you for showing up - but if you see your comrade doing wrong, step up.”

The most impassioned speech came from graduating Wellington High School senior Makayla Washington-Adkins.

“I will say right now bluntly there is racism in this community. You may not see it, but those of us who experience it are tired of it. When i grow up and have a son, I don’t want to tell him that he has to be safe when he’s out walking because I don’t want to worry about him getting shot. I don’t want to worry about him getting someone’s knee pressed against his neck and him crying out for me because he can’t breathe. If that doesn’t make you mad, it should.”

She said those who say they believe in God and are Christian should be fighting even harder. She quoted the Biblical passage, “Love thy neighbor.”

“If you believe in Jesus, stand up right now because that’s what he would want you to do. We live in the United States and we need to start living up to that name, united.”

Julie Carey, a teacher, shows a sign she made for the Black Lives Matter protest rally.