In their words: Why locals protest and what change they want to see

Protests have been held in Dayton and a dozen suburbs in the week since police killed George Floyd in Minneapolis, drawing young and old, black and white, the committed and the curious.

Most of those protesting share some core beliefs about racial justice. But not everyone’s motivation is the same, and many protesters’ “perfect outcome” varies.

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The Dayton Daily News asked eight protesters to answer those basic questions — why are you protesting, and what change do you want to see?

The group ranges from a new high school graduate to a woman who was writing us letters to the editor on racial justice over 30 years ago and is the founder of Sharing Ministries.

These are brief portraits of the protesters, in their own words.

FREDERICK LEON COX III, community advocate

Why are you protesting?

Unfortunately protests are not an option for targeted communities. While the viruses of white supremacy, capitalism and patriarchy are the foundation of America, the symptom that has plagued my community for decades is police brutality. Historically, black people have been provided little opportunity to succeed. All black lives are vulnerable, no matter if you’re a middle-class Christian home or a young black trans girl. As a black youth advocate, I have no choice but to stay involved and keep my community safe. I’ve joined recent protests as a demonstration of solidarity, but my personal protest is to no longer be silent and malleable.

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What outcomes are you hoping for?

I’m looking for a revolution. Policing systems did not arise from a void in community control, but yet they want to have control over the community. I would like to see the Dayton community members hold our elected officials accountable to results, not empty rhetoric about how they are trying. If our elected officers can’t get it done, vote them out. But, we also need our own organizing base that cultivates community and finds ways to build internally.

LYNDA HUGGINS, educator, 25-year Dayton resident and mother of three young black men)

Why are you protesting?

The black experience in America deserves justice in itself. This particular protest is not the first held in Dayton and the surrounding areas because of injustice to African Americans, but it has garnered attention from everyone. While we have the attention of everyone, we need to start dismantling the systems that are contributing to the negative experiences of black folk in America and particularly Dayton, Ohio. To be clear — our education system, how predominantly black neighborhoods are policed or black people are policed in predominantly white neighborhoods, and funding to community centers that provide services to low income communities, to start. Justice for the black experience in America, which includes the Floyd family, is why I am protesting.

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What outcomes are you hoping for?

The immediate outcome I am looking for is the arrest and conviction of all of the officers involved in the death of Floyd. Another is that the communities not affected in their daily lives by minority issues would not only speak up, but call their friends and family to the carpet when they say or do something racist. If these communities do not start to ostracize their people, generational racism will continue and my sons may die for being black. I hope that the congregation of the community will tear down each system policy by policy, march by march, so that my grandchildren won’t have to endure the trauma my children are currently living through.

KELLIE KELLY, minister, Miami Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship

Why are you protesting?

I attended protests in Dayton and Beavercreek, and will continue to attend protests because of the senseless murder of George Floyd and so many other black individuals by police officers across the country. As a Unitarian Universalist minister, I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every human being. My Unitarian Universalist faith calls me to commit my time, resources, and heart to the important work of ending police violence and all other parts of our country’s systemic anti-blackness. My faith and the Dayton congregation I lead call me to do this today — not tomorrow or some distant someday.

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What outcomes are you hoping for?

I fully support the demands of countless black leaders across the country who demand large systemic change at the local, state and national levels. Their plans include the following: establish democratically controlled civilian review boards in every city to oversee use of force and other complaints surrounding police officers; disarm the police and demilitarize police departments; release protesters from jail; abolish U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement; end the racist drug war; end cash bail; train and utilize de-escalation and restorative justice practices in our police departments, courts, jails and prisons; divest police funding for community programs that allow black folk to thrive, at long last.

CHAZ AMOS, 2020 Thurgood Marshall High School graduate

Why are you protesting?

My ancestors, my mentors and my people are the reason I protest. This is not just about what I believe in, it’s about what we believe in as a people. I don’t have to dig 50 or 60 years back to find out what police brutality or white privilege is. Therefore, I march in hope of a next-level revolution. I marched with the people of my city last Saturday morning, and we were overwhelmed with anger, sadness, fatigue and an empty can of hope.

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We protested not just for George Floyd, but John Crawford III, Tamir Rice, Sandra Bland, Mike Brown and the hundreds of African American citizens who have been killed by law enforcement officers. No justice, no peace. This is what it has come to. I don’t necessarily agree with looting, but it’s not about that. There would be no riots and protests if we as African Americans were treated with some sense of belonging. Systematic oppression strips us of equity, economic opportunity and a sense of pride. So for that, I not only protest, but work to put solutions behind anger.

What outcomes are you hoping for?

Change. That’s what we all want to see. I’m done talking. I’m ready to put action behind tiredness.

WILL SMITH, Dayton City School board member

Why are you protesting?

I chose to get involved because as Dr. King once said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” The incident that preceded the national protests was not an isolated occurrence. It was magnified and caused a larger reaction due to it being captured for the world to see. I got involved because these things happen far too often. As a school board member, I am proud to have the opportunity and privilege to stand up for the people I serve. More importantly, as a native Daytonian, I am honored and take pride in standing with the community I serve. I have been a community organizer for some time now, before becoming an elected official. I got involved because I’ve been involved. This work didn’t start now and it won’t end now.

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What outcomes are you hoping for?

As far as outcomes, I would like to see real accountability. Without accountability there can be no justice. Accountability not just in law enforcement but throughout every system that is plagued with institutional racism. I also want to see those that have come together from all walks of life to organize and build. This is a must in order to create the capacity necessary to not only win the changes needed, but to protect them as well. I want to see the real changes needed on all levels to create safe and healthy neighborhoods. I love my city, but I know it could be much better for so many Daytonians.

HANNAH WILLIAMS, assistant manager of Lily’s Bistro

Why are you protesting?

I am tired of the systematic oppression, arrests, and killing of black and brown people. The lack of accountability for people in powerful positions. The lack of change. Why does it take civilian videos of senseless murders to incite action? Why does it take worldwide protests? I’m tired of racism. I’ve attended several of the Dayton protests, and in my capacity as assistant manager of Lily’s Bistro, I have helped to organize free water and food for fellow protesters downtown.

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What outcomes are you hoping for?

I hope to see a lot of things: local government and businesses working with community leaders, fair media coverage, an end to police brutality. As a white person, I am here to be an ally; that means listening to and lifting the voices of black and brown people around me. I hope to see more people use their privilege to do so as well. In these actions and going forward, I am here to use my body as a shield if needed and my privilege to further these messages. I will not stand for racism and police brutality, and I hope to see accountability for anyone who perpetrates them. I hope to see more people speaking up and getting involved, as complicity and silence further enables these injustices.

GABRIEL GAIUSBAYODE, University of Dayton student, brother of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc.

Why are you protesting?

I chose to protest to physically stand in solidarity with the family and city of Minneapolis due to the tragic loss of George Floyd, who was wrongfully murdered by the Minneapolis Police officers Derek Chauvin, J. Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. Peaceful protesting led by black people is often met with violent policing. I wanted to also be present to protect citizens vulnerable to this harm and remove children from these dangerous spaces.

What outcomes are you hoping for?

Here are a list of outcomes that should come about from this issue:

1. All four officers present at the death of George Floyd are charged for second-degree murder with the intent to kill and convicted to a life sentence.

2. National policy changes that convict and condemn police officers for the killing of unarmed citizens, specifically, unarmed black citizens.

3. A federal investigation of states with high African American fatality rates due to police violence with policy reform, and executive convictions.

4. Federal investigations and charges toward officers who’ve participated and who are recorded violently abusing peaceful protesters from May 24 onward.

DARIA DILLARD STONE, Founder/CEO of Sharing Ministries LLC; motto: The Servant

Why are you protesting?

I participated in the protest last Saturday at noon downtown because I had to stand up with the blacks and the whites who are for justice for all people. There is something about black people that is repulsive to some whites and that is hate. Hate is taught, period, point blank. George Floyd’s memory can’t be about us “tearing up our town and looting,” because that is exactly what the enemy wants. I cried profusely because it hurt me to see history repeat itself. Protesting brings awareness to the problems but it has never affirmed the changes needed to solve the problems. How many more meetings, marches, will it take for solid change? I fear for my brothers, grandsons/children, nephews, and that hurts me.

What outcomes are you hoping for?

I pray that a miracle happens! I pray No. 45 (President Trump) and leaders all over the world are touched by the Holy Spirit, repent and ask to be forgiven for their sins seen and unseen. No. 45 is serving a purpose though — just as pharaoh and Judas served a purpose. The world must get better! We need more love! … Proverbs 22:8

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