Protesters gather downtown to rally against killings of black Americans
A crowd of about 60 lined both sides of Main Street in front of the courthouse Sunday afternoon, protesting what they called police brutality.
They shouted slogans including “Hands up, don’t shoot,” and “I can’t breathe,” a reference to the words of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died May 25 when a white Minneapolis police officer knelt with his knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes while his life ebbed away.
Others held signs demanding justice for Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Louisville EMT who was shot and killed in her bed March 13 by police who said they were looking for drugs.
Protests in Minneapolis and Louisville have turned violent, but the demonstrations in Winchester Saturday and Sunday were peaceful. Before 5 p.m., there were no uniformed police officers present, but some of the protestors said they had been there earlier to order them to stay on the sidewalks and out of the street.
“I’m not going to be silent anymore in this small town. There’s a lot of racism here,” said Aurora Cahue of Winchester.
“We’ve had people yell out, ‘No, they don’t,’ when we yell out ‘Black lives matter,” she said.
Many local residents won’t say anything about the racism here because they are afraid, Cahue said, but she was going to be heard.
“They don’t want to see us come together,” Lakisha Rucker said. “They drive by and throw up their middle finger.”
Most of those honking their car horns, she said, were showing their support, but other passersby were shouting racial epithets, she said.
Montel Bobbitt of Lexington came over for the rally because he has friends here, including Cahue, his girlfriend. He came to speak out against racism, he said.
“We all bleed the same. We all feel the same emotions,” he said.
Bobbitt said when he heard about what happened to George Floyd, he felt sadness but also rage.
“It doesn’t make sense to me,” he said. “Any cop could have stopped that from going on. Obviously, bystanders felt like they couldn’t, but the police need to police the police.”
“This is going on everywhere,” Bobbitt said. “It’s a nationwide thing.”
It isn’t just black people, but white people too who are protesting, he said.
“That shows you that something needs to change,” he said.
Police aren’t being held accountable for their actions, some of the protestors said.
“We’re only being acknowledged that we want respect, but not given it,” Braydon Hawkins, 18, said.
Ayana Butler of Winchester brought her baby, Leilani, to the demonstration. She said she wasn’t afraid for the little girl because the protest was peaceful.
“I want her to know to stand up for what she believes in,” she said.
Most of those who attended the rally were teens or young adults, but there were some children and older people among the multi-racial crowd.
Father Jim Trimble, an Episcopal priest, was among the protestors. Later that afternoon, he noted in a Facebook text message that in his church’s baptismal covenant, Christians promise to strive for justice and peace among all people and respect the dignity of every person.
That’s why he was there.
“This witnessing is never more needed than right now when we see so much injustice and racism widespread in our communities,” he said. “To stand alongside others is a call to action that, to do something in the name of something bigger than ourselves.”
Capt. James Hall, a spokesman for the Winchester Police Department, said Monday law enforcement didn’t have any problems at all from the protests, and that’s why they weren’t out there on the street Sunday.
“They were exercising their First Amendment rights,” he said, and as long as the protests were peaceful and there were no issues, “there was no reason for us to be there.”
Clark County County Judge-Executive Chris Pace, whose office oversees the courthouse property, said the rally was a demonstration of constitutional rights.
“Anyone who wants to protest peacefully ought to have the opportunity to do so,” he said.
Pace said what has happened in Minneapolis is “disturbing.”
“Certainly, I think we should all be praying for unity,” he said, and added that he is.