Voices of protest: What demonstrators hope will happen after the marches and chants end – Charleston Post Courier

For the fifth day in a row, protesters marched through the Charleston area — a sustained expression of frustration and anger not seen here in generations.

Hundreds chanted the name of George Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis ignited the protests.

They chanted the names of other black men and women who had died at the hands of white police officers, tinder that had built long before.

“No justice, no peace!” they shouted.

But, in contrast to last weekend’s chaos in Charleston and Monday night’s arrests in North Charleston, the protests on Wednesday were orderly and focused.

The day began with a small march in North Charleston from Tanger Outlet Mall to City Hall. “It took Martin Luther King 381 days to find justice in the Montgomery Bus Boycott,” said Brandon Trollinger, 22. “He didn’t give up. A change will come. It just takes time.”

A second protest began at 1 p.m. at Colonial Lake and attracted about 100 people. From the lake, they took a 2½-mile route through Charleston’s historic neighborhoods. Their chants drew cheers from construction workers and delivery people, and waves from several homeowners.

The third began at 3 p.m. at Brittlebank Park and drew a much larger crowd. They marched to Colonial Lake and then Marion Square, the setting for much of the weekend turmoil. Hundreds kneeled or lay on their stomachs for nine minutes of silence. Two Charleston police officers kneeled with them.

Then, Charleston Mayor John Tecklenburg joined the protest. Tensions rose a bit. Organizers demanded that the city remove its Confederate monuments — and apologize for Sunday.

On that day, law enforcement officers used tear gas and pepper balls to disperse protesters and made controversial arrests. One involving Givionne “Gee” Jordan Jr. was captured on video and posted on Twitter. It has been viewed 28 million times. 

“Stop glorifying slavery in the city of Charleston,” an organizer said, as Tecklenburg listened, nodding, with his hands in front of him. 

He told Charleston police, 'I am not your enemy.' Then he was handcuffed.

Three protests, hundreds of voices.

A team of Post and Courier reporters followed the protests and asked participants a question: What would they like to see happen after the marches end? 

PRINT voice 2 Brandon Trollinger.jpg

Brandon Trollinger, 22, leads a peaceful march through North Charleston Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Charleston. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Brandon Trollinger, 22

Trollinger is from North Charleston and just completed five years of service in the National Guard. He is a Stall High School graduate and works at Harris Teeter.

He said he feels strongly about using peaceful protests to reform the criminal justice system.

Leading the Wednesday march in North Charleston, he said he wouldn’t leave until he had scheduled a meeting with elected officials to discuss educational reform, affordable housing and other issues. 

“We need to make change happen.” 

PRINT VOICE Tifyane Tipton.jpg

Tifyane Tipton, 26, participates in a peaceful march through North Charleston Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in Charleston. Grace Beahm Alford/Staff

Tifyane Tipton, 26

Tipton lives in North Charleston off Remount Road and works as a restaurant server. Wednesday was her only day off, so she decided to join the North Charleston march. “I felt obligated to do something.”

She wants more accountability within police departments. Public officials should respond to protesters’ demands by scheduling meetings with residents to discuss important issues. “We want to work together, as a community, to figure out what we can do for our community,” she said. “It has to be a conversation.”

PRINT VOICE 2 Dwight Smith III

Dwight Smith III, 22, former Charleston Southern University football player. Jerrel Floyd/Staff

Dwight Smith III, 22

Smith is a Charleston Southern University student and former CSU football player. His parents were at work and couldn’t drive him to the protest, so he walked 2 miles to get there. 

Smith said he knows there are good cops. During the walk to North Charleston City Hall, one officer gave him a Gatorade after seeing that he was exhausted.  “See the kindness he just showed me, we need more of that.” He said that when he was a teenager, another officer pushed him toward football, which changed his life.

“He showed love in that moment, we all just need love.” Smith wants better psychological and social tests to separate the good officers from the bad. 

PRINT Matt Legault

Matt Legault, 30.

Matt Legault, 30

Legault has lived in the Charleston area since 2008, the past five in North Charleston.

“Now is the time to make your voice, get bodies out in the street and start protesting,” he said in North Charleston.

He hopes ongoing protests lead to less-confrontational law enforcement tactics.

“Not every situation requires a gun.”

PRINT charlestonblm_11.jpg

Kassie Campbell (left) and Marcus McDonald lead marchers along President Street as they head towards Colonial Lake during a Black Lives Matter rally Wednesday June 3, 2020, in Charleston. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Marcus McDonald, 23

McDonald is from Charleston and  a commodities trader and president of Adesso Entertainment. He was one of the organizers of Wednesday’s protests, including the one at Brittlebank Park.

He wants mandatory independent annual racial bias audits of police departments across South Carolina, not just in big cities. He said he feels unsafe when driving through the state, especially in rural areas.

He wants marijuana decriminalized, too, because of the impact enforcement of drug laws has had on people, like him, who aren’t white. He clutched a trombone and punctuated responses to chants with his instrument.

PRINT AlexisMeyers.JPG

Third grader Alexis Meyers made two speeches to demonstrators on Wednesday June 3, 2020. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Alexis Meyers, 9

Alexis is from Charleston and in the third grade. She was the youngest person to speak to protesters on Wednesday before the march began from Brittlebank Park, and she made two speeches.

Afterward, she said she wanted to remind those gathered that no matter how old they are, they should never back down. She compared the struggle to climbing up a rock or a wall: Even if you fall, you never fail as long as you are trying your hardest. It’s a message she learned in school.

It’s also in school where she said she isn’t always treated the same because of her black skin. “Sometimes I get bullied, sometimes I don’t.”

Peter Dragoo, 31

Dragoo lives in Charleston and works at Purlieu, a restaurant near Brittlebank Park. He said he heard the crowd’s chants as they passed the restaurant. He jumped out the door, slapped a fabric mask over his mouth and texted his boss to say he was headed out to join.

“I shouldn’t have to walk out of my job to protest,” Dragoo said “But that’s the power we have, and it was heartbreaking to see that power taken (by Sunday’s arrests).”

Dragoo hadn’t been able to join the protests over the weekend, but seeing one demonstrator’s sign — a portrait of George Floyd as a young boy, with his mother — convinced him it was too important to miss.

“Too many babies are getting killed,” he said through tears before rejoining the chant.

PRINT Dominique Evans, 22

Dominique Evans, 22, at Colonial Lake

Dominique Evans, 22

Evans said she is a member of the military and joined Wednesday’s protest at Colonial Lake because she wanted minorities to know “there are allies out there for them.”

She said she felt that the protests were history in the making. In the end, she said she hopes that the energy of the protests translates into votes.

“If you come out here and don’t vote, then your voice didn’t count.”

PRINT VOICE Jonathan X.jpg

Jonathan X of Summerville kneels alongside demonstrators as they lay on the ground in silence at Colonial Lake on Wednesday, June 3, 2020 for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time that a white Minneapolis police officer left his knee on the neck of George Floyd before he died. “We need change at the fundamental level,” he said. “We need audits of police departments because of the injustices there.” Lauren Petracca/Staff

Jonathan X, 23

Jonathan X is from Summerville where he works with disabled adults. He also took a day off to join the protesters at Colonial Lake.

“We need change at the fundamental level,” he said. “We need audits of police departments because of the injustices there. We need people in elected offices who will listen to us. If we’re not voting, we’re just walking around in circles.”

Longer term, he said he hoped that the protests would inspire people to run for public offices “to make those fundamental changes.”

PRINT Janice McRae

Janice McRae, 60, Mount Pleasant

Janice McRae, 60

McRae lives in Mount Pleasant and is semi-retired but also sells legal hemp products, such as CBD oil. She said that Wednesday’s protest at Colonial Lake was her first, and that she was angered by what she saw Sunday on television.

She noted the difference Wednesday and how officers were talking and even hugging some protesters.

“I’d like to see change start at the bottom regarding police brutality — train new officers right at the beginning” to be more conscious of racial bias. She hopes departments will get more serious about hiring minority officers. “They need people who understand the problem. I’m white privilege, I admit it. I’ve never had to worry about jogging down the street, though I guess women have to be careful for other reasons.”

PRINT VOICE Becca Sakran marching.jpg

Becca Sakran, left, marches through downtown Charleston as protests continue in reaction to the death of Minnesota man, George Floyd, and America’s history of racial inequality on Wednesday, June 3, 2020. Lauren Petracca/Staff

Becca Sakran, 19

Sakran lives in North Charleston and was one of the organizers of the Colonial Lake protest.

She said she wanted “people of color to feel like they’ve been heard. I want people to feel safe going for a run or to the grocery store.”

She said the protests would generate real progress if more people experienced internal shifts.

“When it comes down to it, people need to love each other more, no matter the skin color or sexual orientation.”

PRINT Carlton Holland

Carlton Holland

Carlton Holland, 27

Holland is from North Charleston and works in the Chicora-Cherokee community with Metanoia.

He addressed the group at Brittlebank Park, encouraging protesters and police officers to repair their relationships with each other. At the park, he called up for an officer to speak to and shake the hand of 9-year-old Alexis Meyers, after she addressed the crowd.

Later at Marion Square, he said he wanted kids to not grow up hating police and, in turn, for officers to be more proactive about establishing better relationships with kids and their parents. So that if there is an encounter, later in their lives, that both sides already know each other and can de-escalate the situation.

“I want people to be more solution-oriented,” he said, before walking over to talk with a police officer.

Kassie Campbell

Campbell has been helping organize demonstrations since Friday, she said, but her childhood in Flint, Mich., and outside Chicago meant she’s been experienced and fought against racism for years.

On Broad Street, she said she moved to Charleston five years ago, as the city grappled with the Walter Scott and Emanuel AME Church shootings. She keeps a list of goals on her phone: Remove Confederate monuments, create a strong civilian complaint board, get police to quit the program that equips them with surplus military weapons.

“The thing white people don’t understand is that black people aren’t scared of you, you’re scared of black people,” Campbell said in Marion Square. “We have to tear down that wall.”

***

More protests were expected to take place this week. 

Police tactics this week, in the past, raise questions: Why haven’t we made more progress?

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