More than 200 protesters gathered Monday night at Clearwater Park in east Bloomington and marched through nearby neighborhoods to speak out against racism.
Demonstrator Delano Walker said George Floyd’s death while in Minneapolis police custody is not just a news event to him. It’s personal.
“One of my friends was killed by the police while I was with him,” said Walker. “We were riding in our neighborhood on bikes, and they said we were up to no good. They followed us and it ended with them shooting him wrongfully and they got away with it.”
Walking on the front lines was important for Walker because this time, he could take a stand.
“There was no justice behind his death because it was the police, and people didn't know the significance of raising their voices,” he said. “A lot of people didn't stand up because they felt like the police would get away with it, so everybody just submitted to what happened.”
A new group called The Next Gen Initiative organized Monday’s march with the help of other local leaders, in an effort to amplify the voices of the lives lost to police brutality and to speak out against racism.
With men instructed to walk on the outside of the crowd while women and children were in the center, Bloomington resident Kyrin Tucker jumped at the opportunity to take the lead.
“There’s a lot of tension in the air so it’s important for all of us to be together,” Tucker said.
With discrimination hitting home, he said he had no choice but to use his voice.
“I've walked around in my own neighborhood and got the cops called on me because people were scared,” said Tucker. "I get dirty looks from people even though I'm the nicest person you could meet. To avoid it, I just try to stay home.”
The crowd marched the streets peacefully holding signs and chanting empowering statements. At one point, they began to sing “Lean On Me.”
"Within a one-hour walk, I was able to see the differences in the visual representation of the systemic racism going on in America," said demonstrator KeAira Jones. “I noticed the division between the two communities that are in battle right now. Taking one turn around the corner from where we are, you can tell where the black neighborhood starts.”
Watching residents stand on their porches, and observing the difference in quality of homes, Jones said the division was unfair.
"I noticed that the white community had large houses, nice green grass, and other things, but then you take a turn and you see where more black people live, there's barely any grass, there's low-income houses, and some apartments are even torn down,” she said.
“It's very important to bring a movement like this into this neighborhood because it's clear that there are very divided ideas. But regardless they need to understand that we’re still going to be here and we won’t stop until we see a change,” she said.
Ending at the park, leaders called for a moment of silence and kneeled in honor of Floyd and two other black victims, Ahmaud Arbery (shot and killed while jogging) and Breonna Taylor (shot and killed by police).
Talking to the crowd about the importance of solidarity, Walker made a point to tell everyone the significance of the raised fist.
“The hand gesture was what we did in the '60s during track meets. But when it was raised for solidarity it meant standing for something that would bring a long-term connection to people rather than standing apart,” said Tucker. “It’s important not to just throw it up without having proper education on it, so I just wanted to make sure people knew what the symbol means.”
Moving forward, Walker said there’s many more steps to take. A world without racism is what he visualizes when hearing “a change is going to come.”
“I picture us standing up when police officers profile us for having our hoods on, and standing up when we get wrongfully pulled over,” Walker said. “If we stand and sacrifice our time and energy to protest, then one day our kids will be able to wear hoodies and not be profiled, and they won't have to worry about being killed in a car in front of their kids.”
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