POMEROY — Area residents took part in a peaceful protest and march on Friday evening in Pomeroy in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, voicing concerns over the death of George Floyd, as well as racism in America.
Organized by Isaiah English, with help from Cornelius English and others, the protest began at the Pomeroy Levee before marching along the walking path. Some chanted as they walked, while others held signs along the way.
Floyd’s May 25 death has gained national attention after viral internet videos displayed a Minneapolis policeman pinning him to the ground with a knee on his neck. Floyd died while in police custody. Since that moment, protests and riots have appeared across the country to pull attention to what many say are years of systemic racism and police brutality targeting the black community.
Isaiah explained he wanted to plan something small to encourage people, particularly the next generation, to stand up for what they believe in and let their voices be heard.
“Thank you,” he said, addressing the crowd before the march. “This is great. This is what matters right here. This will open up a lot of people’s eyes and a lot of people’s minds to what really matters in this world.”
Ramond Johnson Sr. also spoke, offering a prayer and addressing the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Black lives matter … I hear people say ‘All lives matter’ and that’s right, all lives matter. But as long as we’re standing here today and fighting for the rights of everybody, I don’t care white, black, I don’t care what color you are as long as we don’t minimize anybody. We need to make sure we say ‘black lives matter’, ‘Asian lives matter’, ‘young lives matter’ … because we need to focus sometimes on one thing so we can get to the bigger things,” said Johnson. “When we say black lives matter and someone says well what about this life or that life. Those lives are important. Right now we’re focusing on this, and tomorrow we’ll focus on this, and we’ll work at it. … And we’ll become a better society but we need to work on it. Isaiah said it has to be peaceful. It’s because of peace we are able to do what we need to do.”
Noting that there may be people who yell out in opposition, Johnson quoted Michelle Obama, saying, “They go low, we go high.”
Johnson said, “I have police officer friends … they’re friends and most of them are. Sometimes when they pull somebody over they are just as scared as you are because I’ve seen the news where somebody got hurt. I’ve seen the news where something happened. … Don’t give that person a reason to be nervous. Support that person. Now if they’re doing their job wrong, they’re doing it wrong, but don’t you do wrong because, what did I say, ‘When they go low we go high.’”
Before the march, Johnson asked for a moment of silence for those “not here because of some kind of violence, because of some kind of inequality toward them, for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, for officers who are fallen who are trying to keep you protected, the same ones that are going to be out here today.”
He asked that those who were able to kneel in support.
“For those who have come before us and those who will come after us. So that one day we will be able to simply say ‘All Lives Matter’ because all the other stuff is taken care of,” said Johnson.
Meigs County Sheriff Keith Wood, Pomeroy Police Chief Chris Pitchford and Pomeroy Officer Leif Babb met with organizers before the event, and were stationed along the march path in case anyone tried to disrupt the protest or cause issues of any kind.
“The police officers are here for us. They are here to help us,” said Isaiah of the officers stationed along the route.
The protest march stayed on the walking path, with some passersby waiving or honking horns to show their support, while some even pulled off the side of the road to watch as the group walked by.
Another event is being planned for Saturday evening in Gallia County.
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Sarah Hawley is the managing editor of The Daily Sentinel.