Editor's note: This article contains language some may find objectionable.
Around 25 Grayson County residents turned out in downtown Sherman Friday to protest racial injustice and white supremacy. The group marched from one street corner to another outside the Grayson County Courthouse as they chanted and waved signs calling for equality and criticizing the federal government.
The event was largely organized by the Sherman chapter of Indivisible, a progressive movement that aims to reform the current direction of the federal government. The group of protesters was made up of members from area Indivisible chapters, the Grayson County Democratic Party and Texoma residents.
“Today's protest is a sister march to the march for racial justice that is being held tomorrow in Washington, D.C.,” Sherman Indivisible founder and organizer Lindy Olsen said. “Last time I checked, there were 15 or 16 sister marches around the country.”
Olsen said the march in D.C. is timed to fall on the anniversary of the Elaine Race Riot of 1919, which saw more than 100 black sharecroppers working in Arkansas killed by mobs of armed, white men. But Olsen said the marches also follow weeks and months of political commentary, police shootings and policy changes, which she and others see as racially unjust. In particular, she cited President Donald Trump's labeling of mostly black athletes who kneel in protest during the national anthem as “sons of bitches” and the implementation of Senate Bill 4, which allows Texas peace officers to request residency documentation from anyone believed to be in the country illegally.
“I think our president's recent comments have been very inflammatory on purpose,” Olsen said. “I think we have to wrestle the microphone away from that. And then there are things at the state level, like SB4. We have to start talking about the impact that these public statements and laws are having on our communities and how these things are making our community less safe.”
Darren Kessler stood next to the protesters wearing a Trump T-shirt and had an American flag in hand. Kessler said America still struggles with racism and he denounced white supremacists groups, including the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, but he said the protesters' charge that Trump and his administration have supported racially-divisive policies is unsubstantiated.
“They can't prove it,” Kessler said. “It's all talk. They can't show anything that has any meat to it.”
Olsen said safety was a point of concern heading into the protest because she and other participants had heard a group of white supremacists might stage a counterprotest. No white supremacist groups appeared at the march, but the Grayson County Sheriff's Office and the Sherman Police Department remained a visible presence throughout the protest.
“If the things we're saying are generating that kind of pushback, then that's a sign that what we're talking about is important,” Olsen said. “I think it's important to listen to people when they tell you you're being discriminated against or to listen to someone when they tell you that a comment you've made is racist. It's important not to immediately react, but to really think about it and consider the implications.”
The protesters received supportive honking and cheers from passing motorists, but not all who drove past agreed with their position.
In response to one protester holding a “Black Lives Matter” sign, a motorist could be heard shouting, “What about my life? Doesn't my life matter too?”
Several people in a pickup truck waved a Trump campaign flag out their window and revved their engine to form a cloud of black exhaust near the protesters.
Kessler said while he might not agree with the messages of the protesters or everything the president does, he supported the right of all Americans to peacefully protest and speak their minds.
“I'm supporting America,” Kessler said. “America has its differences. As long as people can get out here, show what they believe in and still get along, that's what America is all about.”