Poster created by Jaeda Sasse
In continuation of the Black Lives Matter movement protests on campus, Slippery Rock students and community members peacefully protested Thursday evening.
Protesters met at the SRU Old Thompson Field at 5:45 p.m. They marched toward the university police station and down Main Street at 6:15 p.m.
Participants marched to the Slippery Rock Memorial Park across from Dunkin’, where State Representative Candidate Kolbe Cole gave a speech. Cole spoke about racial injustices in the United States and the importance of affirmative action.
Frantzi Exantus, a senior early childhood education major and one of the students who organized the protest, said racism is still a serious problem in this country, which is why he decided to hold a third protest in Slippery Rock.
Exantus said for a while he stayed quiet on social media about instances of police brutality. The death of George Floyd changed that.
People often say it is not a problem unless you make it a problem, which is very false, said Exantus. He said just because it is not a problem to the average person does not mean it is not a problem at all.
“We can’t be called the land of the free if we aren’t all free,” Exantus said. “We don’t all get treated equally.”
Exantus emphasized that the Black Lives Matter movement is not a trend that just goes away. He said we need to stay committed and do better as a country.
Exantus said he wants others to realize that this is not a matter of politics, but rather a global issue that needs to be addressed.
“I want people to truly understand the value of someone’s life,” Exantus said. “Just because someone didn’t comply or resisted arrest isn’t a reason to be murdered.”
Exantus said although the number of people attending the protests keeps getting smaller, the passion keeps getting bigger.
Exantus and protesters recounted the victims of police brutality throughout the protest, like Breonna Taylor and Elijah McClain.
“Your life matters,” Exantus and protesters said. “My life matters. Black lives matter. All lives need to matter. All lives can’t matter until Black lives matter.”
Protesters marched with signs that displayed different messages about their thoughts on the movement.
Signs that protesters held include messages such as “all lives can’t matter until Black lives matter,” “skin color is not a crime” and “register and vote.”
Jaeda Sasse has attended every protest in Slippery Rock since June. She carried the same sign during every protest.
“Imagine a country so racist, the people are forced to protest during a pandemic,” her sign said.
Sasse said the message stressed that Black people risk their lives every day. Now that there is a pandemic going on, everyone must risk their lives to create change, she said.
Even though she does not attend SRU anymore, Sasse said she still feels connected to the community and wants to fight for others.
Ally O’Donnell, a sophomore park and resource management major, said she wanted to march because she believed in what the movement wanted to accomplish. She was invited by her roommate, Lauren Montgomery, who is also a sophomore at SRU.
Montgomery, a political science major, learned about the protest through a Facebook group called Black Lives Matter – Slippery Rock. The group has over 600 members and posts details of upcoming protests. It also features information to educate its members, like videos and articles about racial injustice and police brutality.
Protesters marched down Main Street and then stopped in Memorial Park for prayer and a moment of silence for lives lost to police brutality. Cole gave a speech afterward.
Exantus said Cole attended the last protest in Slippery Rock. He liked what she had to say in support of the movement, so he invited her back to speak to the protesters.
Cole said she decided to speak at the protest because it is important to encourage young leaders to express themselves.
Cole said although she is running for state representative of District 10, that was not the purpose of her being at the protest.
“I’m here with you today not as a candidate or potential representative, but as a sister to you all in this battle for justice and peace,” Cole said during her speech. “This doesn’t have anything to do with political party or agenda and has everything to do with a matter of our hearts.”
The Black Lives Matter movement is shaping who we are becoming, and it is important to be a part of it in any way you can, said Cole.
Cole said communication is key, especially at this time. We need to see each other as humans and respect each other’s perspectives, she said.
To further racial equality, Cole said she wants some laws to be reformed. They leave too much room for error and make it difficult for justice to come about, she said. She did not name any specific laws that she wanted reformed.
“How are you going to represent [the community] if you don’t know what you’re representing?” Cole said.
Cole said this reaches much farther than just Slippery Rock.
“We must combat this consistently with life, love and wisdom,” Cole said.
Cole advised protesters to continue to protest and be an active member in the community.
“This is not just a fight only for institutional reform,” Cole said. “This is a fight for the soul of America.”