Around 1,500 Troy students and community members gathered outside Troy Athens High School to march in protest of police brutality at 5 p.m. on Friday. The event, initially posted on Facebook, invited people to participate in a non-violent demonstration and march in solidarity with those affected by police brutality and systemic racism around the country. This protest comes a few days after 500 people protested in front of the Somerset Collection Mall on Monday.
Event organizer CarriAna Smith led the march from Troy Athens High School to the Troy City Hall, a distance of almost four miles. The Troy Police Department announced they would have multiple vehicles present on the scene in an effort to provide event safety.
Although temperatures hit a high of 88 degrees, the crowd stayed energetic throughout the march. A few community members also set up stations along the sidewalk to hand out water bottles to the protesters. Even though southbound John R. and westbound Big Beaver roads were closed off for protesters to march safely, cars travelling in the opposite directions slowed down to honk in support of the protest and were greeted with cheers from the crowd.
Predominantly students, the members of the crowd held up signs calling for justice for the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and others who were wrongfully killed by police. Chants included “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and “Hey hey, ho ho, these racist cops have got to go.” At one point, the crowd began to sing “This Little Light of Mine.”
The day also marked the 27th birthday of the late EMT Breonna Taylor, who was a victim of police brutality. Chants in the crows honored Taylor’s birthday by echoing “Breonna Taylor. Happy birthday.”
Meredith Weddell, Seaholm High School graduate and incoming freshman to the University of Michigan, said she was initially concerned about COVID-19, but seeing everyone in the crowd wear masks reassured her. Weddell said police brutality was an issue she strongly opposed.
“Police brutality has been around for ages,” Weddell said. “It seems like now is the right time to really take hold of it.”
Rochester University junior Caleb Shumake said that he had been following the protests in Detroit, but felt that Troy was a more personal area to protest because he has been pulled over and racially profiled by cops in the Troy, Rochester and Shelby Township area. He also said the protest aligns with the national attention put on fighting against systemic racism and police brutality, after the loss of many innocent Black lives.
“People are just fed up at this point,” Shumake said. “This is what it looks like … different faces, different races who are here for one cause.”
Wayne State University sophomore Varsha Nama said that, being an Indian-American, she has seen firsthand how the South Asian community has been very quiet about the protests around the country because of an innate fear of the Black community.
“This is a societal thing; they came here (as immigrants) with that in their heads,” Nama said. “And I just thought it was so important that people need to speak up about that … We act like it’s completely normal that we just look at an entire race and automatically put them a notch lower than everybody else.”
Once the march ended at City Hall, Smith addressed the crowd and said she was grateful for everyone who showed up in support of the important cause.
“Saying all lives matter as a response to Black lives matter is like saying the fire department should spray down all houses in the neighborhood even though only one house is on fire,” Smith said.
Smith told The Daily after the event she was relieved the event was entirely peaceful. She also said she hopes that people continue to be involved and fight for justice, not just for African Americans who have lost their lives, but for students who have faced racial injustice in the Troy School District as well.
“People need to stand up for students and parents who feel like Troy has to do more to get behind (supporting) every single race and culture in order to be more of the diverse community they claim to be,” Smith said.
Daily Staff Reporter Varsha Vedapudi can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.