As the Marble Falls Black Lives Matter Peaceful Protest drew to a close, organizers said it exceeded their expectations.
“Originally, we thought it would be like us and some of our friends holding up some signs and chanting,” said Bryce Laake, who organized the June 13 event with Shyann Brown and Mauri Harris. “And now seeing nearly the whole community come together and join and march with us — the police, the mayor, the EMS, the firefighters, every single person that supports us — seeing them out here just changed our perspective about how much they actually care for this cause and how much we do stand together.”
The rally took place in Johnson Park and drew an estimated 500 people.
“I think it turned out wonderful,” Brown added. “I was glad people were able to come together and stand up with us and be a unit for this cause and to show we do matter and care. And they hear us.”
The young adults organized the event after attending other protests in the Austin area following the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody. A movement against racism quickly took hold around the world.
Harris hopes people continue to stand with her and others.
“I live the black experience, and people probably won’t understand it if they’re not black, but people can be compassionate with you and hear you,” she said. “I’m not asking you to understand everything and put yourself in my shoes, but that would also be nice if you could, so you could really understand me.”
The protest featured a number of speakers, including clergy and community leaders. Several of the speakers shared personal accounts of dealing with racism. Bessie Jackson talked about how, after coming to Marble Falls from Dallas in 1980, she would schedule in-person job interviews only to be told the position had been “filled” once she arrived and employers saw the color of her skin.
Calvin Richard, a resident and business owner, told of how he and a friend were pulled over in Louisiana as teens. The officer ordered them out of the vehicle and slammed them against the car. Then, the officer asked who had the license, which Richard did. The officer took the license, looked at it, handed it back to Richard, and returned to his patrol vehicle.
No apology, Richard noted.
The peaceful protest included a Unity March from the park down Main Street in Marble Falls and back. There was also 9 minutes of silence as people placed flowers on a wooden cross. The silence corresponded with the amount of time a Minneapolis police officer had his knee on the neck of George Floyd, leading to his death.
Several of the speakers urged people to take what they heard, felt, and learned on Saturday and turn it into actionable steps, including having real, even tough, conversations.
“I want you to see me. I want to see you. We talk. We go through those tough conversations so we can work on this thing together,” Richard said during his talk. “Have this tough conversation so we can have this unity. Yes, it is uncomfortable, but it’s not divisive to come and speak about what we’re speaking out. It’s unification.”
It’s something the Rev. Shane Wegner of Elevate Church pledged to do. He told the crowd he has had some of those conversations with family and others. Wegner added that people must commit to not letting this movement fade over time.
Organizer Shyann Brown agreed.
“I would like to see people continue the conversation going,” she said. “Don’t allow this to be a one-time thing. In any way, if you can change the minds of people to do that.”