A group of Jacksonville residents gathered at the corner of Main and Morton Avenue over the weekend to protest racial injustice.
As many as 20 protesters from the area staged the peaceful protests to rally against the death of George Floyd, who’s died while being forcibly detained by police in Minneapolis, Minnesota one week ago.
The group held signs demanding justice for Floyd, and asking for passing motorists to honk in support of their efforts. Event organizer Seirra Helmer says She decided Friday that she needed to do more than post support on social media.
“Friday morning I got on Facebook and I was like, you know what, I’m going to go hold a sign on the corner of Main and Morton if anybody wants to join me. Because I can’t drive to Minneapolis, don’t really want to drive to Minneapolis right now with the rioting going on.
And then people just showed up and in an hour and a half I made some signs and brought some paint with me. And this was the turnout the last couple of days. The first day we had about 12 people, and then 20.”
Helmer says racial injustice and instances of police brutality seen across the country, needs to stop.
“I’m just so sick of black people being treated differently, I’m tired of people immediately criminalizing black people, dehumanizing black people, because we are people too. We have feelings and emotions and goals for our lives, and the system itself holds us back, and something needs to be done now.
And to see a man get killed, on video, a police officer knew he was being video taped, and he still didn’t care, and than man’s breath was taken away from him- there’s no reason for that.”
The protesters gathered everyday since Friday, receiving mostly positive responses from motorists passing by. Helmer says though they have been met with some obscene gestures, and a few instances of name calling and even racial slurs being yelled from passing vehicles.
Helmer says she has been victim of racism herself, and says action needs to be taken by everyone to move equality forward.
“We have to educate ourselves, we have to educate our children, and we have to teach ourselves to stop thinking with a prejudiced mindset. Because even myself, now I don’t think that way at all, but I feel like when I was a kid you know, I wanted to be white, I wanted for my hair to be straight because I always felt like that was better, and I had to learn to love and accept myself, and love and accept black people for who they are.”
Helmer says she does not condone the rioting and looting that has occurred in larger cities in the wake of the outcry of support for Floyd and his family. She says even though she would not participate in such actions, she can understand the frustration and emotion that can lead to protests turning into acts of violence.
Helmer says her and all of the volunteers protesting were very thankful for the large amount of support they received, including some passersby who stopped to bring them water and some food in a show of support for their efforts.