As the nation mourned at George Floyd’s memorial on Thursday, June 4, Douglas County residents found their voice during a rally in front of the Government Center in Superior. Roughly 250 people attended the event to protest Floyd’s death while in police custody in Minneapolis and demand an end to racial violence in the country.
There were cheers, there were chants and a chance to make a difference.
Mayor Jim Paine encouraged people to register to vote, plug into the news, assemble peaceably, write down the change they want to see and petition the government for it, and pray for justice daily.
Kym Young, a longtime activist, said it was time to take other avenues as well.
“We need to replace that peaceful protest, that peaceful civil unrest with radical love, with radical transformation, with radical restoration so we can create radical reform that is long overdue,” she said.
As an example, Young referenced the graffiti that had been sprayed on the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial over the weekend in Duluth. A young man was arrested for the act.
“You know what we’re doing? We’re paying his bail; we’re paying his fines and we’re pulling him into the community because his voice has been lost in the fracture of this system,” Young said.
It’s a chance to bring him into the work to create the community he wants to see, so he is not considered a threat and sees his life has value.
“We need his voice in the movement,” Young said. “He needs to know he has a place in the movement and that he is supported.”
Retired and raising her grandchildren, Young said she answered the call to lead the protest for her two grandsons.
“I refuse to fail them,” she told the crowd. “I refuse to have these sweet innocent angels grow up to become the objects of scorn and fear.”
For many in the crowd, this was their first protest.
“I’m just here because I want peace and I want peace for all people,” said Lisa Jordan of Superior.
Carina Barker brought her daughters, age 13 and 7, to the event.
“They both wanted to be here. We’ve been trying to find out a positive way to show our support and just be present and prepared for change,” she said.
As a social worker and a human, she wanted to support her friends and family.
“It’s been a very emotional time,” Barker said. “Silence is compliance. We don’t want to be silent anymore."
Bryson Mazur, 18, of South Range was happy to see all the children in the crowd.
“We’re starting them young so they know their place in the world. When I was growing up I didn’t know my place in the world as a black child raised in a mainly white environment,” said Mazur, a 2020 graduate of Northwestern High School. “These kids, they’re here, they’re seeing all this. They’re seeing the people here for them and how much strength they really have within and how many people around them support them to grow up and become successful human beings.”
Megan Flint attended the rally with her three sons.
“We’re raising a black son in America,” Flint said. “He’s eventually going to be a black man in America, and that’s scary. So this has really hit home to us. We wanted to come and support. Black lives matter. Yes we know all lives matter, but right now, black lives matter and it’s a movement I think every single person needs to be a part of and we need to reach out and we need to help.”
Her neighbor Clivia Prince, 21, held up a sign that read “I want my boys & men to live. Black Lives Matter.”
“I was surprised at how many people came out, especially people of non-color who came out to support us,” Prince said.
The speakers' words made her want to cry, because she worries about her father and brother going out in the street. When they get pulled over by cops, Prince said she records the encounter “because you never know what’s going to happen.”
“I just want justice for the people in my life — my uncle, my dad, my brother. I have to worry every time they go out if they’re going to come home or not,” she said. “It’s a really scary place being a black woman in all this.”
In the past, she’s felt it was hard to speak her mind because friends of non-color might disagree.
She and Mazur said they felt more confident about making their voices heard in the future.
“After this, I’ll make sure I speak up more for myself and for my family and not hold back,” Prince said.
“After coming out here today and realizing that there are a lot of people in my community that have the same feelings as me, I’m more at ease,” Mazur said.
There was no violence at the Superior event. When one man in the back of the crowd started talking back to the speaker, Young tried to reason with him, then told members of the crowd to give him some love.
"We're all here to guarantee his constitutional right to being able to say what he wants to say," she said. "We will not deprive that for anyone, even if their opinion differs from ours ... It's when that opinion becomes the catalyst for violence and negativity that it goes too far."
At the end of the speeches, protestors marched around the Government Center and stood displaying their banners in front of the courthouse. As of 8 p.m., roughly 30 people were still there.
Protests aren't the only way to make a change.
“If you can’t go to the front lines, you can show support. You can send money to a bail fund, you can send bottled water,” said Taysha Martineau of Cloquet, an indigenous rights activist from the Fond du Lac reservation. “As mothers in America we need to be brave enough to raise our children anti-racist. You need to be brave enough to raise your children to see, honor, love and respect the differences of everyone in their community. At the end of the day we’re already here. We all need to learn how to live with each other.”
Treat everyone with kindness, Prince said.
"It’s 2020 and we’re still discriminating against people of color, LGBTQ; we need to be there to support each other," she said. "Build each other up instead of tearing each other down."