In the wake of nationwide outrage over the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota, more than 50 students and community members joined in protest on the square in downtown Troy Friday.
The protest lasted from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and protestors say they plan to continue demonstrating for at least another couple of days.
The local protest began when Troy student Taylor Lolley, a senior psychology major from Butler, Alabama, stood alone on a downtown street corner holding a sign that read, “He Could Not Breathe.”
Photos of him protesting by himself went viral on Facebook, and people began volunteering to join him for another day of peaceful action.
“I watched the protest in Minnesota all night and I was so angry,” Lolley said. “I knew there was nothing going to be done here, so I decided I couldn’t just stay angry.”
He said he will be back to continue the protest.
Four Minneapolis police officers were fired after the incident and Friday, four days after Floyd’s death, Derek Chauvin – the officer seen in viral videos kneeling on Floyd’s neck – was arrested and charged with third-degree murder.
“(The officer’s) three accomplices are still at large,” said Roberto Earl-Lynch, a sophomore global business major from Jamaica. “We’re trying to protest the wrongful murder of George Floyd.
“If we don’t stand together, it’ll keep continuing to happen.”
For many at the protest, their actions Friday were about much more than an innocent man dying. They said they were standing against systemic racism in the United States.
“Slavery was abolished years ago, but we’re still in a situation where African-Americans are being oppressed,” said Earl-Lynch, one of the protestors on Troy’s square Friday.
Brianna Hogans, a senior music major from Warner Robins, Georgia, said she was protesting not only because of Floyd’s death, but also because of the ongoing racism she sees.
“It’s unfair that the police can get off with no problems,” she said. “The system is built to oppress us.
“You want a system that doesn’t just benefit you, you want it to benefit everybody. There’s not a true equality, and you have to get out here and fight about it. You have to talk about it. If you’re not, you’re ignoring it.”
Hogans said she wished people would have more empathy.
“People of my skin complexion are looked down upon, as if we’re animals and that we don’t deserve the same respect,” she said. “It’s disheartening and frustrating to see the constant arguments on social media basically justifying his death.”
Breanna Dean is from Dothan. She’s not a Troy student, but she saw a post about Lolley and his efforts on Facebook and decided to bring a friend along and join in the protest.
“Systemic racism is pretty rampant in our country,” Dean said. “Silent protesting really isn’t doing much, and our voices need to be heard.
“People are losing their lives unjustly. People are able to go out in broad daylight, but George, he’s dead. There’s no justice.”
Tia McMillan, a Troy human services graduate from Monroeville, Alabama, agreed that people should rise up against an unfair system.
“This issue is something we’ve all been saying has been going on for years — it’s nothing new. It’s something that’s finally being televised,” she said. “I will stand for what is right.
“I will stand for someone who did not deserve to have their life taken.”
She stressed the importance of unity, citing Biblical beliefs.
“It could be someone close to you next, or it could be you next,” she said. “Why not stand up for each other?”
Deizah Holland, a junior psychology major from Troy, said she’s happy to see her community standing up for something.
“Growing up here, I’ve always seen people turn a blind eye or a deaf ear to social injustice, and it’s just time for me to take a stand,” she said. “How can we grow as a people if we can’t come together as one?”
Cars passing by honked in support of the protestors, meeting cheers from the crowd each time.
The protestors chanted “No justice, no peace!” and “What was his name? George Floyd!” together. Many passers-by in cars could be seen holding fists out their windows in solidarity.
Some demonstrators brought pizza to share with others and made rounds with water so no one would become dehydrated in the near-90-degree heat.
Multiple protestors who spoke with the Tropolitan said they’d be back Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. A candlelight vigil will also be held on May 31 at 7 p.m. in downtown Troy in an effort to bring awareness to the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery who were all recently killed. Attendees are urged to wear a mask, and candles will be provided.
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