Approximately 2,000 people gathered in Triangle Park Tuesday evening for another organized protest in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Protesters marched down Bluemont Avenue to Juliette Avenue and back to the park.
The protest was organized by Jaynae Cole and Teresa Parks, two Manhattan residents, over the weekend and quickly gained over 1,400 responses on the Facebook event invite page — even more people showed up. The amount of interest surprised Parks.
“I thought if we had 100 or 150 people, I would call it a win — and to have hosted 2,000 people here,” Parks said. “I never could have imagined that Manhattan would come out and show this kind of support and I’m so glad that they did.”
Protests are gathering in cities across the country as people call for the end to police brutality following the officer-involved death of George Floyd in Minnesota on Memorial Day. Some protests in other cities — like Kansas City, Missouri, and Topeka — have turned violent. Parks and Cole emphasized the peaceful aspect of the protests in Manhattan.
“Everybody knows what’s going on in the world here and it’s a lot of rioting. A lot of looting. A lot of fires [are] getting started … not here,” Cole said. “The allies came out and the men in blue came out. The men in blue were kneeling. The men in blue were saying ‘George Floyd. Say his name.’”
Riley County Police Department attended the protest as well to provide safety to protesters, water, masks and support.
RCPD assistant director Kurt Moldrup said he hopes that the positive relationship between law enforcement and the Manhattan community can continue to make a difference.
“I hope it says to them that we can do this, and not have conflict. We can have the conversation,” Moldrup said. “We can have a protest, and not have conflict. We need to continue the conversation. … I want it to become a movement, not repeated protests.”
With primary elections coming up for Riley County in August and eventually the general election in November, Cole and Parks hope that people show up and vote for the changes that are needed.
“Without your vote, citizens, there’s not going to be change. Everybody sees what’s going on,” Cole said. “It’s time for a change, and we’re ready to make that mark. If you have a hateful heart, you better get rid of that hateful heart because it’s not going to get you anywhere.”
With political unrest in recent years, younger crowds have begun to voice disillusionment regarding whether voting actually changes anything, deciding instead to stay home on election day. Parks encourages young people to take their activism to the polls.
“They have to realize that they can’t fuss about changes that they didn’t ask for,” Parks said. “They can’t be mad about the status of things if they weren’t trying to do anything to improve it. ‘OK, so you feel like the older generation messed up? What are you going to do to fix it?’”
The diverse crowd at the protest was encouraging to Parks and Cole, and they said they hope Manhattan continues to show up.
“It’s not just people who look like me who have to be invested in this, it’s people who don’t,” Parks said. “That’s how we’re going to be able to make that difference, so that’s why I’m so glad that we had so much diversity out here.”