A Black Lives Matter protest in Oak Harbor Saturday remained peaceful and, despite foul weather, drew a sizable crowd with more than 50 people participating.
The protesters stood at the intersection of Highway 20 and Beeksma Drive from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., carrying signs and raising their fists in the air in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Protests in large cities across the nation have turned violent, prompting officials to set curfews and even call in the National Guard.
While the Oak Harbor protest focused on police violence nationwide, protester Angelique Fuqua said she is grateful for the Oak Harbor Police Department’s restrained response to the gathering.
“They came out here and were non-violent,” she said. “They didn’t shut anything down and they left and they let us keep peacefully protesting.”
Protester Jabari Diggs agreed.
“There are good cops out there,” she said.
The protesters’ signs displayed various rallying cries, including “Black Lives Matter,” “White silence equals white consent” and “Justice for George Floyd.”
The protesters endured gray skies, rain and cold wind to chant slogans ranging from “No justice, no peace” to “Hands up, don’t shoot” to “I can’t breathe.”
Some shouted Floyd’s name into the busy street. Most of the protesters wore masks.
The protesters were acknowledged by many passing motorists honking their horns in solidarity, with some drivers offering a thumbs-ups. Occasionally they encountered a middle finger, to which they responded in kind.
Every once in a while, a heckler would pass by.
While Floyd’s death was the catalyst for Saturday’s peaceful demonstration, the protesters said they were responding to a number of racial injustices.
“It’s sort of a known fact that, in the last few years, we’ve had so many police officers killing black men and women in unjustified cases,” Diggs said.
She referenced the Cleveland shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in 2014, and Breonna Taylor, who was shot in her own home in March in Louisville, Ky.
Amber Ford led part of the demonstration. She prompted the chanting with a small bullhorn, donned in a Black Lives Matter T-shirt, which was eventually covered by a windbreaker after a couple of hours in the rain and the cold.
She said it was important to protest despite the poor weather conditions, and part of what brought her out on the rainy Saturday was her children, who are biracial.
“Having to have these conversations with my children is very painful and very disturbing,” she said. “They are asking me questions that are hard to answer. How can I tell my children that the ones who are supposed to protect them are the problem?”
She said it was important for white people to be outspoken about the injustice black people regularly face.
“Black people have died. Black people have fought,” she said. “They have done their duty. It’s time for us to do ours.”
Crystal Finney, a protester with “BLM” written on her mask, said she was happy to see people of varying races taking part in the demonstration.
“It shows we’re not in this fight alone,” Finney said. “It’s good to know we got somebody out there with us.”
Finney said she experiences racism on a daily basis, often when she goes to a store.
“People grab their purses when I walk into Walmart because they think I’m going to steal something,” she said.
Finney said she is worried about how her daughter has begun to perceive the police — people who are supposed to be trusted.
“My 5- year-old said she hated the police because they’re killing people,” Finney said. “No 5-year-old should have to think that.”