Hundreds of protesters gathered in Denison Wednesday night with a message of peace and community while advocating for an end to police brutality.
Black Lives Matter staged a protest in Denison Wednesday following the death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody in Minneapolis in late May. The protest was the second to take place in Texoma following a peaceful protest in Sherman on Sunday.
“Today we are protesting and bringing to light the death of George Floyd,” protest organizer Dalijah Beasley said Wednesday. “We are honoring him and everyone who died because of police brutality and we are celebrating togetherness and bringing a light to this so that it hopefully never happens again.”
The protest was organized by a group of four high school students, who decided to move forward with the protest following the success of Sherman’s protest and its peaceful nature.
The path took more than 400 protesters from Forest Park on a 1.5 mile march toward Martin Luther King Jr. Park, named after the famous civil rights leader who pushed for civil rights reforms in the 1960s.
“We chose that specific location because of what MLK has done for the community and we thought it would be a great place for us to gather,” Beasley said.
Like Sherman’s protest, Wednesday’s march was peaceful, with organizers reporting no violence and no issues. Protesters were joined by members of the Denison Police Department, who provided escort for the event.
Beasley said she and her friends came up with the idea for the protest before Sherman’s event, but had fears that rioting could happen. However, they decided to move forward when this didn’t happen in Sherman.
“We didn’t think it would be as peaceful as Sherman, so we wanted to test that out,” Beasley said. “We had the idea of planning our own before hand. We went to the one in Sherman and it was so peaceful, so beautiful. It was amazing ... so when we came back from that we decided to make one for Denison.”
Beasley said it was vital that the event go forward with no violence or rioting, as that overtakes the original measge and intent.
“To us, I think it speaks more powerfully if it is as peaceful as possible,” she said. “It gets the message across easily to those who want to hear what we have to say.”
Beasley said that the last few days since the killing have been difficult for her, but she wanted to push through it and move forward toward a solution.
“It has been heartbreaking. I experienced a lot of emotions like anger, hared and sadness but I had to put them beneath me and think that instead of bringing out those feelings move forward.”
Denison’s protests, along with countless others, comes following the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis while in police custody. During the arest, Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, while Floyd continued to tell officers that he couldn’t breath.
Chauvin has since been arrested and charged with second-degree murder in the incident.
“The news of hearing another unarmed black man or woman be wrongfully killed set something off in me,”protest organizer Madison Broadway said. “Once George Floyd’s story went public and millions of people had to watch that horrific video of a helpless man slowly dying with a knee to his kneck, I wanted people to know, I wanted my classmates to know.
“I wanted random people on twitter to know that racism is wrong, that injustice is wrong, and it is crazy that people still want to argue about that.”
Throughout the route, protesters chanted slogans including, “I can’t breath,” quoting Floyd in his last moments, and, “Say his name,” in an move to keep Floyd’s name alive.
Among those who spoke briefly during the protest was Denison Police Chief Mike Gudgel, who thanked the crowd for holding the event without the violence that has marred others.
“We wanted a peaceful protest and we did it the Denison way,” he said. “So be proud, Denison, be proud.”
Former City Council Member and community leader Rayce Guess also spoke and brought attention to the diverse crowd that joined the protest.
“Look around you. Look at the difference races and genders and religions,” he said. “Why can’t this be every day?”
Michael Hutchins is the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat. He can be reached at email@example.com.