PORTSMOUTH — Residents of Scioto County marched down Second Street chanting “We united. We want peace,” to spread a positive message about the social climate between communities and police.
On Sunday, area residents peacefully marched down the streets of Portsmouth and gathered outside of the Portsmouth Police Department and Municipal Building. Community members came out to show their support and hopefully send a message to end police brutality in response to the recent events between a police officer and George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“We created a group called We United,” Organizer Datoine Robinson said. “Once that George Floyd incident happened, everybody separated, and it became a black versus white versus cop thing, and I wanted to have something where everyone came back together.”
Residents of all races attended the protest, which marched from Spartan Stadium to the Portsmouth Police Department. Demonstrators chanted and talked with Portsmouth police peacefully. Along the route, residents came out of their homes and cheered.
“Even though we are angry, it’s important that we’re not separating ourselves,” Robinson said. “I believe that can change the world.”
Protests have been taking place across the nation in support of George Floyd, many turning violent. In Columbus, riots have taken place for the past three nights, causing Ohio Governor, Mike DeWine to mobilize the National Guard and set a 10 p.m. curfew.
“Thank you to all the people who kept it peaceful,” Robinson said. “I knew everybody’s intentions and everybody’s hearts, and we did have those people online saying it wasn’t going to be, but maybe they can see this and know they can come and be a part of the change.”
In a Facebook group called We United, Robinson stated several times the protest was to be peaceful and that he has been in contact with the Portsmouth Police Department. As the protesters made their way to the Police Department, they were welcomed and embraced by the Portsmouth Police.
“I totally understand why they want to do this,” Portsmouth Police Chief Debbie Brewer said. “I personally don’t feel what happened was correct. I believe what the officer did was improper, so I support their efforts to change that.”
Robinson, along with Brewer, spoke to the crowd at the police department, spreading the message of peace and justice. As Robinson asked the group to take a knee, he asked members of the department to join them. Without hesitation, the department knelt in solidarity and to remember those who have been lost due to police brutality.
“This was very peaceful and I’m very pleased with that,” Brewer said. “We have had community members come up and thank us and share their concerns, and we want them to know we are here and willing to listen.”
During a speech to the crowd, Brewer shared that she has heard the phrase “there are bad apples everywhere,” but Brewer assured the community that if she found out about a “bad apple,” they would not be working for the department.
“Peaceful protesting is their constitutional right. We will not take that away,” Brewer said. “This is the way to have your voice heard. Be peaceful, interact with people, don’t try to hurt each other.”
Austin Spears also shared that he wanted to do his part to bring peace and justice to the community.
“We can’t rest unless our brother and sisters can rest,” Spears said. “We can be leaders here, in small communities like Portsmouth. We can hold the light for other communities to see and pass that touch to them.”
Spears said he hopes that the peaceful protest in Portsmouth will be followed around the nation and that they will inspire change.
“We can’t drown everything out with hate. We have to drown it out with love and peace,” Spears said. “Now is the time to stand up and rise up and hold hands with our brothers and sister and get stuff accomplished.”
Reach Adam Black at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1927, or by email at [email protected]
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