Marchers: Making black lives really matter is about breaking white silence

Marchers: Making black lives really matter is about breaking white silence
Peggy Woolley (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Peggy Woolley (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Chelsea Graf (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Chelsea Graf (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Dawn Howard (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Dawn Howard (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Peg Scherush (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Peg Scherush (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Demetrius Lane and Deonte Reed (Source: WAVE 3 News)
Demetrius Lane and Deonte Reed (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - Their protest was a virtual white-out. By design.

"We must learn how to tell our story about why we care, why we show up," said Andrew Newton, co-organizer of Stand Up for Racial Justice, or SURJ. "And we have to tell it over and over and over."

Dozens of students, retirees, some young parents and office workers on lunch break marched across Jefferson Street from the Hall of Justice to Louisville Metro Police Headquarters, to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter. 

"I'm shocked by the injustices," said Peggy Woolley, a retired educator from St. Matthews. "I was in school for the civil rights protests of the '60s. I sort of watched from the sidelines. Now I realize we haven't come very far."

"I feel the pain, it's just too many people," said Chelsea Graf, while holding a placard with the names of several dozen African-Americans, Asians and Hispanics who've died in confrontations with police this year. "I don't think there's any other way to feel about it."

Those reciting the names made no distinction regarding the circumstances of the death. The list was long enough that three speakers took turns.

"Should be a problem for everybody and it seems not to be," Garrett Gillen said. "I really can't speak thoughtfully about it right now. I'm pretty emotional."

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Much of the anger found its way onto signs, but not in demonstrators' speeches. Frustration reared its head occasionally.

"We've got to stop the violence," one young mother said, her voice quivering. "We've got to create love and we've got to show up with our bodies our hearts and our minds!"

Overhead, the whir of a police helicopter served as a reminder that officers were outside headquarters as well. But they and the demonstrators appeared to go out of their way to avoid contact, must less confrontation. The vigil was less about leveling blame, than focusing on what created the tensions that seem no longer to be able to cool.

"I started hearing the news, and listening my friends of color, the stories they were telling me," Dawn Howard said. "And I realized that, realized that, society is not where my heart is and not where it needs to be."

The rally dispersed after little less than an hour. Peg Scherush wondered where the dialogue goes from here.

"We have to build trust," she said.

The Academy @ Shawnee sophomores Demetrius Lane and Deonte Reed believe that process will be slow, if not impossible.

"Sometimes (police) come to you wrong," Lane said Monday afternoon. "Like you already did something, like you already have it figure out in your head. In they (sic) head."

Reed, 15, survived a gunshot wound in the back, when somebody fired into a crowd. The attacker hasn't been identified, much less prosecuted - but Reed maintains that's not what sours him on law enforcement.

"They locked up my brother - they thought he did it," Reed said. "I was saying 'why you doin' (sic) that?' They was just saying 'shut up, be quiet.' If an officer or an undercover cop was talking nasty to me, I'm gonna talk nasty back to them."

Both teenagers were part of a group Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer talked with this past weekend, following the killings of five police officers and wounding of seven more in Dallas. 

"He wanted to know what we thought," Lane said. "I believe he cares."

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Reed knows some officers by name.

"Those who've treated me all right," he said.

But he admits he has no way to reach those officers, should he need help.

"It's gonna take a long time, a long time," Lane said. "You get what you give. Respect makes respect."

Scherush counts herself among the many demonstrators who call recent events "eye openers."

"There could be some (white) guilt we're feeling, yes," she said. "Instead of focusing on our guilt we need to focus on what has been a very murderous system, and I don't want to get stuck in guilt - I want change."

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