People in protest: Organizers and community members speak out against racism, injustice

Manhattan, Kansas, and other nearby towns joined the protests against police brutality dominating cities across the United States this weekend. These protests come on the heels of the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minnesota on Monday. (Dylan Connell | Collegian Media Group)

As tensions bubble over following the public death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer, protests have broken out in cities across the country. Demonstrations began last week in Minnesota calling for justice for Floyd and an end to police brutality.

Locally, Trumanue Lindsey Jr., director of diversity and multicultural student life at Kansas State, co-organized a peaceful protest in Triangle Park on Saturday to bring awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement. Lindsey is a Minneapolis native and said he’s been watching the turmoil in his hometown.

“[There’s been] too much silence for everything that’s been happening — not just in my hometown of the Twin Cities, but all around the country,” Lindsey said. “For people to be quiet, to me that’s just trying to turn a blind eye, trying to pretend as if you don’t see it or it’s not our issue because it’s not happening here in Manhattan and we’re peaceful here in Manhattan, but we thought that same thing about COVID-19, and look at everybody out here today with masks. Just because it might not directly affect you at this moment, eventually a fire will spread. If you don’t put it out, it will spread.”

Fanny Fang, co-owner of the Asian Market, decided to run for Riley County Commissioner for district two following recent remarks made by county commissioner Marvin Rodriguez. The commissioner suggested that the risk for COVID-19 in Riley County is low because there are only a few people of Asian origins in the area.

“We are looking at humans. You’ve got to look past the color of skin and understand that these are humans,” Fang said. “This could happen to any of us and we didn’t choose to be born black, white, yellow. We’re all humans and we need to not only show that empathy, but show that empathy through our actions.”

It wasn’t just civilians who took part in the demonstrations over the weekend. Officer Tyrone Townsend chose to use his unique position as a black man and a police officer to promote a positive relationship with the community.

“You can’t be silent in a state of injustice, and that goes along with us as a police department as well,” Townsend said. “You can’t stay silent. It’s gotten to the point where it’s not enough to just be on the sidelines … you need to do more, and that’s what the community needs to do. If you see injustices happening in an overt level and also a systematic level, then you need to call those injustices out and be supportive and not be silent anymore, because that’s how we’re going to get through this.”

Although the race relations and police brutality issues may seem like fleeting moments for most, JahVelle Rhone, a local pastor and co-organizer for Saturday’s protest, said these are obstacles the black community faces often.

“I’m tired. We’re all tired. That’s the component that we’re all dealing with. We’re tired, but we have to keep going,” Rhone said. “It’s every day for me. I don’t know if that’s something new because we’re seeing it on camera, but I know this to be true, and my convictions encourage me to say something.”

Rhone said he is spearheading efforts within the Manhattan community as a way to protect his own children, as well as children in the community who may not have someone to protect them.

Another peaceful protest is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. on Tuesday in Triangle Park.