Kirubel Mesfin stood before the group gathered at Flat Branch Park and told the crowd about being tear-gassed at a Kansas City protest.
“Do you know what kind of fear you have when you’re in a crowd of 10,000, and you came with five other people, and you don’t know where they are?” Mesfin asked. “That fear that I had in that moment I know is nothing compared to being on pavement for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and not being able to breathe.”
Mesfin, an MU student, was among approximately 200 demonstrators who marched Tuesday night from Francis Quadrangle to the park and through downtown in solidarity for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality. Police provided vehicles to escort the demonstrators.
The march was the latest in Columbia and worldwide since the May 25 video of Floyd, pleading for air for nearly 9 minutes while a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck.
“We didn’t expect so many people,” said Melissa Carranza, a student and a march organizer. “This all started with just a conversation with my friends.”
Speaker Kiessence Bassett asked those in the predominately white crowd how they plan to support Black Lives Matter after the protest.
“It’s up to a lot of people, at their jobs, in their families, to be that voice and light for other people,” Bassett said. “It can’t stop here.”
Natisha Pettigrew told the crowd that it will require a community effort to keep black men safe.
“We need to have people of other races stand up for them,” Pettigrew said. “We are being treated as disposable creatures and we’re not.”
Protester Daimontre Yancy led the crowd in chants, gave a speech and asked the crowd to raise their hands above their heads, “‘hands up, don’t shoot’ style.”
“You need to keep other white people accountable for their racism,” Yancy said. “That is not a black person’s job. That has been a black person’s job for far too long.”