women fists raised in air

These Peaceful College Protesters Stood on Ohio's Frontlines

From New York City to Los Angeles, peaceful protests are being arranged and attended across the United States, as well as the rest of the globe in support of Black Lives Matter. This past weekend, thousands of young college-age students attended these rallies wearing masks, holding up signs and chanting for justice as it relates to the recent murder of George Floyd. There are far too many names to even share of black men, women and children who have been victims of police brutality. Young Americans are tired. We've seen viral videos appear on our feeds far too often for any of this to have remained normal as long as it has. This treatment is unacceptable and it's no longer allowed to be the status quo.

Through protester accounts below, as well as social media videos, it's clear that members of local police forces were enjoying the experience– almost as if they practiced for riots of this scale their whole life. Twitter users have shared images of one cop licking his lips in anticipation while grasping his weapon. In New York, one police officer ripped a peaceful black man's mask off and then proceeded to mace him. If you search for the keyword "unprovoked" on Twitter, users can find an array of similar videos where abuse occurs without provocation. Police cars drove through crowds, officers maced children and some policemen stomped on a black pregnant woman's stomach causing a miscarriage. Words cannot begin to sum up the pain caused by these senseless actions. 

Beyond this, reporters have been direct targets of police violence. Kaitlin Rust of Wave 3 News, along with her cameraman, was shot with pepper bullets on live television. CNN reporter Omar Jiminez was arrested on a livestream as well, along with his entire crew as they were standing out of the way and far away from police. 

Though many of us may be sad and exhausted to see the scuffles started by police, it is simply not shocking. The looting, fires and graffiti simply do not matter in this article. Those buildings can be replaced, while sons, daughters, friends mothers and fathers dead due to a broken justice system will never come home. In fact, your favorite business probably shared a message of support for the protests as well. 

For example, Ohio experienced an intense night of rioting and looting. One shop that lost a window was Pour Cleveland“Property damage can be fixed, things can be replaced, lives cannot. While we don’t encourage violence or destruction, we will not judge a response to pain, oppression and injustice that we cannot begin to understand. Thank you for wanting to support us, but please put your money and energy into supporting and sharing causes for racial justice,” the coffee company wrote on Instagram. 

Black Lives Matter sign holders, protestersThis fight will be a hard one, but it is long overdue. Many Ohio college students are educated, active and enthusiastic about sharing their voices and letting authority figures know that their time is up. Young people are already in the process of trying to change policy at Ohio State University where students sent a formal letter imploring the university to cut ties with the Columbus police dept. over their brutal behavior including wooden bullets and teargas. Don't believe it was that bad? The police ended up pepper-spraying their own black congresswoman, Rep. Joyce Beatty, as well as her staff. Without hesitation, young people organized in and out of the streets. 

Tensions may be high, curfews may be in place, the president is currently hiding in a bunker and the national guard may even be roaming your street... but the fight is far from over. Hear what these Gen Z protesters did and what they faced as they demonstrated in different cities across the state of Ohio. 

 

*To protect their identities, the protesters will not be named.* 

BLM Peaceful Protesters, holding signs  

What personally motivated you to attend this particular demonstration?

Youngstown Attendee #1: I had an epiphany, after watching the efforts of hundreds of thousands of protesters around the country successfully gain greater acknowledgement of this movement than it had ever seen, that my discomfort and apprehension is absolutely nothing compared to the pain and terror that black Americans experience every single day. I thought to myself, if I am scared to join a nonviolent protest, isn’t that all the more reason to protest? It hit a point where I absolutely could not stop thinking about these brave people begging for justice and change, and wondered how others could be thinking about anything else. 

Youngstown Attendee #2: I wanted to stand in support of the BLM movement. I supported by donating at home but I wanted to do more. 

Akron Attendee: I felt helpless and needed to stand with the community. The reason I went to a big city is because I figured they’d be more likely to have violence break out and I have medical training, carried supplies and had a sign identifying me as having resources for fellow protestors.​

Columbus Attendee: I wanted to attend the demonstrations in Columbus because I feel that as a privileged white person in this city, I needed to stand with people of color for justice and for change. I recently moved onto the street right where the protests were occurring and that compelled me to participate even more.

What was the most empowering sight you saw? What hurt the most to see or experience?

Youngstown Attendee #1: All of the speakers at the event were incredible. Mayor Brown’s uniting words about love for our home and his experiences in raising his children in a world that is so dangerous for them had me in tears, and poetry and prayers from young women around my age will remind me every day that my commitment to be anti-racist must be lifelong. 

Youngstown Attendee #2: Our protest made its way to Stambaugh Auditorium where we all stood on the stairs and cars were pulled up all around. People were coming out of their homes to come watch and it was beautiful to see how many people showed up in support. It hurt to hear about individual stories of institutional racism that affected friends and immediate family of protesters. 

Akron Attendee: Hearing the stories of some of the protestors. Everyone there had a story of police brutality and I heard some eye-opening things that they experienced first hand. I watched a truck drive into the crowd and that was scary. The protestors helped the person who was hit and seeing them come together so quickly to help them is something I’ll always remember. People were handing out waters and snacks and checking on others. It was like a little community​.

Columbus Attendee: The most empowering thing that I saw was after a black-owned small business (Sole Classics) was looted and damaged on my street, many members of the community came forward to help with cleanup and boarding up of windows. Afterward, the business spray-painted this on their boarded-up windows: “This is on us. For generations, we have called the youth stupid, stripped funding from their programs, kicked them out of places and ignored them. What would you expect? Don’t lock your doors tighter, open your hearts wider. Spread love." What hurt the most to see was the police... the people who are supposed to protect and work for us, inflicting violence on innocent men and women, as well as seeing people crying in pain from wooden bullet wounds and being maced directly in the face.​

How did the police and other authority figures behave toward you?

Youngstown Attendee #1: While I was at the event, police presence was relatively small. They remained at the outskirts of the group, allowed us to move freely, and were not sporting the riot gear as seen in other protests. I believe this contributed to the group’s ability to remain peaceful and lawful for as long as it did. 

Youngstown Attendee #2: Police followed us in cruisers and blocked off roads as we moved. Most of them watched from afar. When we were at the jail, they stood on the sidewalk and observed, and prevented us from getting too close to the jail entrance. ​

Akron Attendee: They laughed. Some were in riot gear, they were on rooftops surrounding us, including being on all levels of the parking garage right behind the protest and had drones flying, too. And they laughed and smirked and smiled as citizens stepped up and shared their experiences. They laughed as a preacher was talking to the crowd. It made me sick​.

Columbus Attendee: During the demonstrations, police were pepper-spraying, shooting wooden bullets and arresting peaceful protesters who were standing with their arms up, unarmed, and nonviolent. At one point, I had moved onto the sidewalk on my own property. As cops in riot gear walked down the street, they pointed a gun at me and the two other people I was with.​

What do you want to see change after your experience? 

Youngstown Attendee #1: I want to see a world where black people can feel (and truly be) safe in their daily lives. I don’t want to be another generation that fails to fix the many, many deeply rooted problems at the expense of precious human lives. 

Youngstown Attendee #2:  I want to see cops be held to higher standards nation wide so we can prevent the unnecessary brutality towards people of color. ​

Akron Attendee: I want to see more of my peers stepping up and correcting each other in the moment when someone says or does something racist. I want to see more involvement from my peers in any aspect. I want to see my peers educating their parents about these issues at the dinner table​.

Columbus Attendee: I hope after today that the voices of the oppressed are really heard and that people in positions of power really start to take this movement seriously. Black people are dying at the hands of the people who are supposed to protect and serve. The system wasn’t built to protect them, it was built to protect me and that is why I’m standing with them.​

What organizations and funds would you like to see other people support?

Youngstown Attendee #1: Check out your local BLM chapter’s social media for information about protests, expectations for allies and where to donate.

Youngstown Attendee #2: There are a multitude of places you can donate to if you don’t want to protest. Here are a few: Bail funds such as the Minnesota Freedom Fund and the Brooklyn Community Bail Fund, the Official George Floyd Memorial GoFundMe, Black Visions Collective and many more.

Columbus Attendee: Columbus Freedom Fund

Protesting is not for everyone and that is okay! Support and allyship take many forms. Donate your time to local charities that serve minority communities, donate masks and other PPE during this pandemic to organizations who need and can share it, and finally, donate any cent or dollar you have to organizations serving to protect peaceful protesters. Here is just a short list that went viral on Instagram. Beyond donations, share Tweets, Instagram posts and news articles that are helpful, educational or healing. This is not just a hashtag, a trend or a social media campaign: this is a whole community of people who need help in changing their reality. Young people will make the change they wish to see in the world. Local causes can impact national change. Keep fighting and stay angry! (P.S. It's okay to unfollow people who refuse to learn about the issue, and would rather post selfies and nonessential travel pictures instead.) -HCXO