On Sunday, August 17, one soft-spoken poet led a group of more than 200 people from Monroe Park to the steps of the John Marshall court building in a rally called “Operation: Injustice (We Stand with Ferguson).”
Former VCU student, Jamil Jasey, spoke about unity and coming together in his poetry. After the police shooting death of Ferguson, Missouri teenager, Michael Brown, Jasey said he was inspired to live the words that he so often speaks.
“I put the idea out, got through to a few other people and as you can see this is what happened,” Jasey said.
By 4:30 p.m., people had gathered around Monroe Park with handmade signs, fliers, and megaphones ready to speak their mind. The crowd included children, the elderly and people of many ethnicities and races. Jasey said he wanted the rally to be a way for anyone to speak out against injustice.
“If I can help to reach anybody around here, then we should be able to come together as a community for anything,” Jasey said.
The rally began with an opening speech by Jasey, and was followed by a list of names of people who had been killed while unarmed in the past decade. Next, a moment of silence was held for the dead. Afterwards, the rally took to the streets of Richmond.
People who led the rally shouted “no justice, no peace” and “hands up, don’t shoot” into megaphones, leading the crowd into chants. During the march, Richmond police officers and members of the VCU police bike force stopped traffic and rode alongside the crowd. The march ended on the steps of the John Marshall Courts building, where members of the crowd were invited to hold the megaphone and voice their opinions.
University of Virginia graduate, Kindra Hill spoke to the crowd about oppression of all people, including members of the LGBTQ community.
“We may not think (LGBTQ) is the same as black rights per say, but it’s altogether,” Hill said. “It’s all privilege, all oppression, it’s all things we need to talk about and take power to changing.”
Hill said she was upset after hearing about Brown’s death, and felt society was not changing. She said she was propelled to think about how she could change the current system of injustice from within.
“I want to go into law and policy to try and change policies,” Hill said. “As an adult I want to promote love … and also talk to the people in power and try my hardest and my darndest to help the state of affairs.”
Other members of the crowd spoke about changing the community from within, such as supporting local businesses. A few people mentioned the strongest protest is financially, and suggested boycotting companies to get a message across. Some just asked the crowd to love more.
When Jasey took the megaphone again, he said it was important to keep the message of the rally alive.
“Don’t just go home and be happy that you did a good job today,” Jasey said.
He told the crowd to keep on rallying, participate in local government by attending city council meetings and act on the messages given by previous speakers. Around 7:30 p.m., the crowd slowly made their march back to Monroe Park, hands in the air, chanting “don’t shoot.”