Editor’s note: This article has been corrected to reflect that streets were closed off for the march after organizers obtained a parade and road closure permit. The Brookings Police Department was not among the organizers of the event, but organizers were in communication with the BPD regarding their plans. The seventh paragraph of the story has also been edited to reflect bystanders observed along the demonstration route.

Matthew Rhodes/Register

BROOKINGS – Hundreds gathered in downtown Brookings Friday evening to march in a peaceful demonstration, held to support Justice for Black Lives, calling for continual engagement with the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community to stop systemic police brutality in America.

The protest, one of many held across the United States over the past week following the death of George Floyd of Minneapolis in police custody, was organized by various members of the Brookings community, who were in communication with local law enforcement.

Beginning on the courthouse lawn, a band played while people gathered. Masks were worn by most, but social distancing was not enforced nor practiced. Speaker Alex Wood and organizer Moiria Curry kicked off the event by welcoming everyone and asked that they march in remembrance of all black lives and to stand against injustice.

The route made its way to the Post Office, where, after an introduction by organizer Sarah Fofana, Brookings resident Fedora Sutton spoke about her time in Brookings and what it means to be black in today’s society. She said that we all “know of the racism that exists in this community,” and spoke about how her house has been defaced with graffitied racial slurs and how she and her family have been assaulted by racism.

Between stopping points, marchers chanted “No justice, no peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “Say his name: George Floyd.”

From there, the march continued through downtown on Main Avenue; various intersections had been closed off as organizers obtained a parade and road closure permit. 

Several individuals not participating in the march were openly carrying guns downtown during the event.

Some downtown businesses also requested assistance from local bikers, who lined Main Avenue in front of stores during the march.

Many cities across America have experienced riots with looting and violence during their protests.

The next stop was at the Brookings Police Department, where everyone was asked to kneel on the pavement in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the time that former Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin has his knee pressed into George Floyd’s neck.

The demonstration moved to the Brookings City & County Government Center, where Lela Sample of Brookings shared a message of how racism has affected her life in losing custody of her first child. She continued on about the realities and detriments of racial divides creating harm and disparity, but ended her message in saying there is still hope for things to be better.

Marchers made their way back to the courthouse, where the Rev. Daren Junker of Elkton spoke about white privilege and listed several names of black Americans who had been unjustly killed by police. He asked everyone who was willing to, to join in prayer.

Concluding the event, Jamaal Cummings of Brookings thanked everyone for joining the demonstration and reminded the crowd to continue the anti-racism movement and to do so peacefully.

Contact Matthew Rhodes at mrhodes@brookingsregister.com.

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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