Protesters gathered in Heritage Park in Junction City on Saturday to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement and stand with other protesters who are gathering in cities around the United State to take a stance against police brutality. Organizer Michael Turner emphasized that he wanted the protest to be peaceful and respectful.
“This is a rally,” Turner said. “I don’t want to call it a protest because protests across the country have turned violent. This is a get together, this is a gathering.”
Junction City Mayor Jeff Underhill said he hopes this movement initiates change in the area and around the country.
“I wanted to come up here and say something really impactful, but honestly, I couldn’t come up with anything,” Underhill said. “I can’t fathom what African Americans in this country have gone through or what your children will go through. Growing up in rural Kansas, you don’t have to look very far to see racism. However, growing up in Junction City, you also don’t have to look very far to see love, to see diversity and to see a community that has come together to stand up against racism.”
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The highlight of the protest for Turner was having police chief John Lamb in attendance. Turner and Lamb marched together shouting “Black lives matter,” “No racist police” and “All lives matter.”
“We’ve got some good police officers in Junction City,” Turner said.
During the march, someone shouted “All lives can’t matter until black lives do,” which was met with cheers from the protestors. People also chanted “Justice for George Floyd” and “Justice for Breonna Taylor.”
Turner encouraged attendees to share their poetry and music with the crowd. Ka’Neisha Collins, an NCO stationed at Fort Riley, shared her poem “Go Back to Africa.” Collins said she wrote this in 2015 when she was told by an officer “to go back home” to Africa if she was unhappy with how black people are treated in America.
“I’m from Memphis, so where is home,” Collins said. “Not Africa.”
“Africa, a place where my heart wants to be,” Collins read. “Africa, a place where I am accepted.”
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Gregory Taylor, a co-organizer of the protest, led the crowd in singing “We Shall Overcome.”
In addition to sharing poems and songs, Diana Dean, a Geary county resident running for county clerk, shared the importance of voting.
“When I started registering voters, I found out that Geary County is dead last in the voters in the state of Kansas,” Dean said. “Geary County is the dead last in the people who go and vote in the state of Kansas. I know we can do better.”
Dean emphasized that to make a difference and keep momentum from the various protests going, people need to vote. Dean said voting in local elections can make the most change.
Dean helped people to register to vote at the protest as well. When Turner asked people to raise their hands if they were currently registered, about half of those in attendance raised their hands.