“No Justice, No Peace!” Protesters in Broward County
By Courtney Shepard
This past Saturday, a group of protesters on Sistrunk and the surrounding areas of Las Olas shut down traffic as they marched in remembrance of the Black lives lost at the hands of police brutality.
Dozens of peaceful protesters chanted “I Can’t Breathe”, “No Justice, No Peace,” and held ‘Dieins’, each lasting for 11 minutes at a time, in the middle of the streets of Broward Boulevard, Las Olas Boulevard and on Federal Highway.
The 11 minute ‘Die-in’ was dedicated to the 11 times Eric Garner, the New York father of six who died on July 17th, 2014 due to a cop putting him in a chokehold, pleaded for his life repeating ‘I can’t breathe.’
As they marched through the streets, a few angry commuters yelled obscenities at them as they shut down the front of the Federal Courthouse on Broward. “I wasn’t racist before but I am now” was directed at Henry Williams an older Black man and a peaceful protestor.
With police officers nearby directing traffic around the nonviolent demonstrators, Blacks, whites, and Latinos all marched in solidarity, making their voices heard about the in-justices in our nation.
Alyssa Faircloth said during a particularly tense sit in, “I know what it’s like to be discriminated against. I want to be a part of the change because everyone deserves equal treatment.”
Alyssa, who is a white woman, bonded with the Black protesters over stories and revelations, as they blocked off the intersections of Las Olas and Southeast Eighth Street which is a preferred area for the many tourists who come to Fort Lauderdale every year. Faircloth shared stories of being afraid to allow her friend who is Transgender enter public bathrooms alone.
Alyssa’s sign was a call to unity for all; ‘WHITE SILENCE = WHITE CONSENT’. She also told the marchers of how a reporter approached her and asked “why does this matter to you being that you’re a white woman” to which she responded “It keeps happening, it’s time for a change.”
Demetrius Vaughn, a young Black man was quoted saying “I feel like I’m making a difference, like Martin Luther King and the people who marched with him in the Civil Rights Movement.”
That comparison brought forth a lot of emotion in the final hours of the protest. As their numbers dwindled and making their voices heard, the marchers were extremely humbled by their efforts to bring attention to death of Black men and Black boys being killed at the hands of the police.
The protesting continued throughout the weekend, spilling into the streets of Midtown Miami and the Art Basel Festival. A group of Activists known as the Dream Defenders took to the streets and attracted droves of followers as they took over the cultural art city of Wynwood. The protest poured on to the Julia Tuttle causeway for the second time this weekend, the first being on Friday. Police cut off traffic and allowed protesters to hold up signs as the traffic backed up below the underpass. Some of which read “Am I Not a Man?” “If You are tired of Hearing About Racism, Imagine Livin’ It” and “Shut It Down,” amongst other things, before they peacefully filed into lines and marched back into Wynwood.
The melodies of Bernice Johnson Reagon’s Ella’s Song floated over the stopped traffic as the demonstrators slowly filed through the cars heading back to where the protest began in Wynwood.
Trayvon Martin’s family, Sabrina Fulton, Tracy Martin, and Trayvon’s brother, Jahvaris Fulton, even came out in support of the protest. These protests are just two of the many nationwide that have been happening since two grand juries both decided not to indict Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo respectively in the killings of unarmed Black men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner.
The protests do not seem to be ending, but instead gaining more momentum, becoming more organized and growing in size while remaining mostly peaceful across the nation.
In the words of Bob Marley’s Redemption song, by way of Miami protesters, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery; none but ourselves can free our minds.”