People marched Saturday from Pacific Park to the downtown square in Sulphur Springs to call for “change from the courthouse to the White House,” speaking out for same justice and equality for all.
“I really hope and pray that this kind of event opens up good honest, heartfelt conversations among all of us. I want to have those conversations. I need to have those conversations,” said the Ed Lantz, First United Methodist Church senior pastor.
Lantz offered a prayer that the peace march and rally would give those participating “eyes to see and ears to hear,” to give glory to God, by bringing all together.
“If people ever need to come together as one, in respect and honor of God and each other, that time is now,” said Valanderous Bell, a former city council member and Arbala Road Church of Christ minister. “George Floyd is the latest and most brazen example of a pattern of injustice, discrimination against Blacks and people of color. I often like to include when I say Blacks and people of color, there are people in all segments of our society who have suffered in various ways, who have suffered from injustice and the things that cause us to do what we are doing today.”
Bell challenged those present to change their way of thinking, to each personally seek change for justice and equality for all, on a personal level as well as from the courthouse to the White House.
“It doesn’t end today. The battle has just begun. What do we need to do?There’s a sign out there that says register and vote. You don’t have anything to complain about if you are not registered — Oh, you can complain, but who wants to hear it? Register and vote,” Bell said. “In closing, when you cast that vote, study. Know the person and the personality of the people you are voting for.”
Local church leaders carried a banner stating “We are stronger when we stand together.” The march, with a police escort, proceeded from Pacific Park down Martin Luther King Drive to Gilmer Street, then Jefferson Street at Church Street. Marchers followed the walking path across the square to Main Street. The group included people of varied colors, ages and backgrounds, including families with children marching along side parents, even a few children pushed in strollers along the route, marching together for unity, justice and equality.
Made clear was the fact that violence and destruction would not be tolerated at the march. All who wished to join and have their voice heard were welcome.
Many marchers held hand-made posters, “Black lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “My color is not a crime,” “Stop Racism,” “All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter,” “No more silence,” “We Stand United For Justice,” “Enough is Enough,” “Do you hear us now?”, “#Justice for George Floyd,” “#Let them breathe,” “#Justice for Breonna Taylor”and “No justice, no peace.” Many chanted Black lives matter, and no justice, no peace. Others called out the names of those they were walking for and calling for justice for, including Floyd and Taylor.
At Celebration Plaza, the marchers were joined by members of the “Higher Love Movement,” a group that began a “peaceful and inclusive protest” Saturday morning and planned to remain downtown until 6 p.m. June 6. The movement encourages not just love of family, but a higher love of all people, even complete strangers. The event organizers encouraged people to vote for candidates with experience on issues facing America, and voiced their support for minority city council candidates who they feel are better able to relate to social issues. The event organizers point to “gradual militarization of police departments in America” and “institutional racism” as issues of concern to them.
The march procession stopped on Main Street at Oak Avenue just off the square. Local protesters, community members and police officers bent to their knees in silent observance of George Floyd’s death, specifically the 8 minutes, 46 seconds prosecutors in a complaint stated Floyd was pinned to the ground under a white Minneapolis police officer’s knee on May 25.
Afterward, the procession marched up Oak Avenue, then, turned back toward Pacific Park, some singing as they did so. A rally featuring several speakers was held under the covered awning in the park.
Brittany Abron recounted the shooting death of college classmate Gabriel Winzer in 2013 by law enforcement. The family is pursuing a wrongful death suit and an online account has been set up to accept donations for the legal fund; the link can be found on Abron’s social media page.
“When I look around this crowd, I see Black, I see White, I see Hispanic, I see everybody. That’s how it should be, because, understand something. What took place on May the 25th of this year, didn’t affect just us, it affected everyone. It affected everybody,” Danard Barnes, MLK Church of Christ minister said.
“We understand not every policeman is a part of the problem. So we understand there are some good cops, and we need to celebrate and highlight the goods cops. The ones that ain’t doing good, we need to get them out of there,” said Barnes.
Referring to Amos 5:24 and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Barnes said, “Justice is falling like water. It’s been raining. Now, it’s a monsoon. It was raining, and after May 25th it’s a monsoon. Now, it’s time to be heard. So the question becomes, how do we do this? Do we keep protesting? Protesting only opens the door.”
Barnes too reiterated the importance of voting for change. He said people have to register to vote, find out about the candidates, investigate, check them out, then vote for change. If people aren’t doing their job, they need to be fired and removed; if an elected official is not doing his or her job, that individual can be removed at the poles, Barnes said. He stressed the importance of knowing the candidates, being involved and voting.
“Be involved in your community. Be involved in what’s going on in Sulphur Springs. Be involved in what’s taking place. Cause when you do those 3, guess what? Change is going to come,” Barnes said. “We have the opportunity to make change. We have the platform right now. We have the open door right now. It’s time for us to see change.”
The MLK minister said that God, in Micah 6:8: “And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
“God Himself requires that justice takes place. And if God calls for justice, then it’s time for some justice,” Barnes said.
Dr. Harold Nash, pastor of Morning Chapel Missionary Baptist Church and Sulphur Springs Place 2 City Council member, also urged everyone to vote, and encouraged city residents to attend city government meeting and take an active role in the process.
“We, as Black people, we need to show up at the City Council, there is where you make things happen in the city,” Nash said.
He encouraged community members to attend the council meeting, to sign up to speak, to “make your voice heard at the council.”
“If we have to stay all night because you signed that little petition that you want to speak, we have to stay there to listen to what you say. That will move problems in this city. How will we know if you don’t come and you don’t make it known?” Nash asked.
Nash encouraged those who are angry to use that anger in a positive way for change.
“Change can happen because the police are under the city manager, city council. We have a good police force here,” Nash said. “Be angry, but and do not sin. God gave us the emotion of anger so we can do something about what’s wrong. We can do that in the way Jesus did it. He could have had legions of angels come down and protect him, but he peacefully went on with his cross and died for all of us — all of us .”
Bell reminded rally and march participants of the upcoming November election, which includes City Council choices on the Sulphur Springs ballots.
“Whoever the candidate is, we don’t need candidates who are afraid to stand up and meet the challenge. We need candidates to be vocal, to stand up against those things that are wrong, stand up for what’s right. I served on the council for 9 years. You are going to make people angry. You are going to have people who don’t like you. But whenever you stand for right, that is what happens. We don’t need a yes man in any office that’s held publicly. We are standing together, and we need politicians and leaders who are going to faithfully and strongly stand with us,” Bell said.
An activist said if people can’t correct one another when they see a problem, there is no hope. He said all should be held accountable, including those in a position of policing other; those in a position of authority have a moral standard to uphold and should be held to it.
“We want change. We are human first,” he said.
Community organizers had voter registration cards on hand at the rally as well as individuals available should anyone need assistance in filling one out.