A peaceful protest and a conversation about race relations are scheduled for Tuesday in Oak Ridge.
The conversation about race relations in the United States and Oak Ridge is scheduled for 10 a.m. Tuesday. It’s between Oak Ridge City Council member Derrick Hammond, who is a pastor; Oak Ridge Police Chief Robin Smith; and local youth. You can watch it live on Facebook at the Oak Ridge Police Department page and on the Oak Valley Baptist Church website at oakvalleybc.com.
The peaceful protest is scheduled to start at 4 p.m. Tuesday in the parking lot of Wildcat Arena at Oak Ridge High School. Participants will make signs and shirts there. At 5 p.m., they plan to march to the International Friendship Bell at Alvin K. Bissell Park, organizer Trevor King said in a Facebook post.
The Oak Ridge Police Department will be there and will participate, although it’s not a city event. Smith will walk across the street with everyone, and he has been asked to speak, City of Oak Ridge spokesperson Lauren Gray said Monday.
King said everyone is welcome to attend Tuesday’s event.
“We need support from all of our white allies to show who cares,” King said.
“Bring your signs, bring cameras, be ready to have open conversations and learn something from one another,” he said. “This is not one-sided. We will have police officers speaking as well to gain their perspective. If you wanna be heard, you gotta be willing to listen.”
King said emotions are welcomed and understood, but people will be held accountable for “any nonsense and bad behavior.
“This is our opportunity to show how a peaceful protest is supposed to be done,” he said.
King said he’s contributed $700 to organize the event, and he has 25 masks and 75 “I can’t breathe” shirts. A group of 2020 graduates plans to attend.
King said there will be numerous police officers to “stand hand in hand with us and to listen and restore our community’s faith in the police force.”
Two residents have been marching for Black Lives Matter in Oak Ridge recently.
On Sunday, they said they started Saturday and were motivated by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died in Minneapolis as officers held him down and one kneeled on his neck, and the federal government’s response to the death. The four Minneapolis officers who were present have been fired, and the white officer who kneeled on Floyd’s neck, Derek Chauvin, has been charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. In a videotape of his death, Floyd can be heard saying “I can’t breathe.”
Since Floyd’s death, there have been many protests across the country. Tens of thousands of people swarmed the streets on Saturday and Sunday to express their sorrow and outrage during the day, The New York Times reported. But that turned into nights of unrest with reports of shooting, stealing from stores, and vandalism in some cities, the newspaper said. There have been clashes between police and protesters, and sometimes between protesters and people with unknown motivations. Hundreds of people have been arrested, and National Guard troops have been deployed. Buildings and vehicles have been damaged and destroyed, and at least six people have died, the Times said.
One of the two women marching in Oak Ridge on Sunday said she was especially upset about a tweet by President Donald Trump on Friday that said, in part, “when the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
“That just disgusted me beyond words,” said Mariah, who did not want to provide her last name. She cited the historical context of the language used by the president.
After protests in Minneapolis turned violent last week, Trump said in a two-part tweet on Friday that he spoke to Governor Tim Walz and told him “that the military is with him all the way.
“Any difficulty and we will assume control but, when the looting starts, the shooting starts,” Trump said. Twitter hid that part of the president’s tweet behind a notice, saying it violated the company’s rules about glorifying violence. Trump then criticized Twitter and defended his tweet, saying there had been shootings after looting in some cities and he didn’t want that to happen.
The phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts” was used by Miami’s police chief Walter Headley in 1967 during the campaign for civil rights, and by presidential candidate and segregationist George Wallace the following year, according to NBC News. Headley, who was police chief in Miami for 20 years, said he didn’t mind being accused of police brutality.
“There is only one way to handle looters and arsonists during a riot and that is to shoot them on sight,” said Headley, according to a New York Times report from 1970. “I’ve let the word filter down: When the looting starts, the shooting starts.”
Marriah, one of the two Oak Ridge residents marching Sunday, said she thinks the president knows the historical connotations of the phrase, and she thinks he used it deliberately.
She said white people need to help dismantle racism. White people put the system in place, and they need to take it down, she said.
Among the changes that she thinks could be considered nationwide are ending mass incarceration and ending the militarization of police departments.
Marriah and Ziyah, who was marching with her Sunday, had both supporters and detractors on Sunday. Some people asked about the rally starting at Oak Ridge High School on Tuesday, while others used a profane hand gesture or yelled “all lives matter.”
Marriah said the phrase “all lives matter” diminishes the Black Lives Matter movement, and she and Ziyah, who attended a protest in Knoxville on Friday, weren’t asking for black lives to matter more.
“We want black lives to matter as much as other lives,” Marriah said. “Right now, they do not.”
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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