Hundreds of protesters on Saturday gathered at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Newberry to march for racial justice.
The march was just one in a string of hundreds across the country after George Floyd died when Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
Echoes of “Black Lives Matter!” and “No justice, no peace!” could be heard throughout the city of 6,100.
Alena Lawson was a member of law enforcement for more than 25 years before she retired and founded the Concerned Citizens of Newberry, an organization dedicated to social change. Lawson said she organized the protest because she was sick of having to explain to children why black people have to be extra vigilant in life.
“’The Talk’ is no longer about sex,” she said. “It’s about what it’s like to be black in the community.”
Lawson understood that in a small city like Newberry, a march might not yield tremendous change, but it raises awareness and encourages people to vote.
“That’s our voice, even if you don’t know what else to do,” she said. “In August, you can go to the polls. In November, you can go to the polls.”
Several notable people attended the march, like Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, state House candidate Kayser Enneking, Newberry Mayor Jordan Marlowe and City of Alachua Police Chief Chad Scott.
Scott has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years. He said the issue isn’t police brutality, it’s racism.
“You treat people like you want to be treated,” he said. “It doesn’t matter the color of your skin, it doesn’t matter if you’re the chief or a police officer. You don’t abuse your power.”
The protest was entirely peaceful and drew a fair number of visitors from Gainesville.
“I don’t want to just sit on the sidelines,” UF social studies professor Elizabeth Washington said. “I don’t want this to just be an academic experience of teaching and writing lesson plans.”