By Jane Hetrick, Special to the Panther Press
May 31, 2020: Today I did something. Today I stood up for something. Today I was part of a peaceful protest for the Black Lives Matter movement and justice for George Floyd.
At first, I was very scared, even standing in a large group of people. I’ve watched on the news what’s been happening in other places, and how violent the riots have been. I didn’t think that could happen in a place like Meadville, but I was ready for the worst.
The organizers, Jaida Speed and her mother Christina Smith, spoke to the crowd about what was going to happen. We would walk to Diamond Park from First District Elementary, lie down for eight minutes in respect for George Floyd, then continue marching to Second District Elementary.
The more we walked and chanted, the more powerful I felt. I’ve never been one to get too into political events, but this needed to happen. Walking with all colors of people and standing together at Second District was one of the most empowering things I’ve ever experienced. I saw people I knew and new faces amongst the crowd, but collectively, we were all there to spread love. It was beautiful.
When the walk was over, the group returned to Diamond Park, and we chatted and drank water and ate cookies that people had brought. In the crowd, I found Speed and took a moment to interview her. I asked her about her purpose for organizing the protest. “It is for Black Lives Matter and for George Floyd. For the knee to the neck. It was a murder.” She added that she wanted to show how “all colors can come together and spread love.”
I felt honored to be amongst this group today, and I’ll never forget being part of this demonstration. I hope people see this and are inspired to make a change. Change needs to happen. Jaida Speed said it best: “We are not done here. Today’s protest did a lot, but there will be more gatherings. All peaceful.”
Jane Hetrick is a rising senior at Saegertown High School.
Journalism Adviser, Saegertown Jr. Sr. High School