Local activist group Peoples Defense held its 100th consecutive protest Monday evening in Columbia.
Its protests began in May after George Floyd was killed by police in Minneapolis. Since then, the list of Black people subject to police brutality has grown to include names such as Breonna Taylor and Jacob Blake.
Protestors met at 6 p.m. in front of Boone County Courthouse, where Sterling Brown spoke before the group marched down Eighth Street. Brown led a chant of “No justice, no peace; or we will prosecute the police.” A chorus of honking cars joined their voices, passing signs that read, “Honk for justice!”
Brown said he has been especially happy to see many young people at the protests.
“(The Peoples Defense) has been trying to educate the public for 100 straight days today in Columbia,” Brown said. “It’s a tremendous tip of the cap to these young people’s fortitude. It’s the kind of thing that Columbia hasn’t ever had before.”
Brown and Miles Acker, the group’s head of security, stressed the peaceful nature of the protest. Other protestors drove near the group to protect them from traffic.
“Peace and protest is something that a lot of people may want to say they don’t necessarily believe can happen at the same time,” Brown said, “but the Peoples Defense shows you every day, for 100 days now, it can and will be able to happen.”
Vice President Erika Lynn said the organization has focused on raising awareness regarding local policies, specifically Columbia Police Department’s community policing system. The City Council will hear a report on policing at its 6 p.m. work session Tuesday. Lynn said members of Peoples Defense will be at the meeting.
Lynn said the number of consecutive marches indicates how much people care about the issues they march for.
“I think a lot of people thought it would fizz out,” she said, “but we’re still here. And I think we will still be marching 100 days from now. I think our voices will still be heard.”
Peoples Defense also invited state Senate candidate Judy Baker to speak. She stressed that her policies would focus around criminal justice reform, health and education equity and economic mobility.
“It’s been 100 days of asking for what we want and demanding what we need,” Baker said to the crowd.
It’s not only inspiring, Brown said, it’s more than that. It can take a lot out of someone to analyze the injustice in America and to demand change, he said.
“This is exhausting,” Brown said. “At the end of the day, whether it’s 100 days in a row or one, this Black skin that I’m wearing, if it were not for how proud I am of it, and how beautiful I believe it to be ... it’d be just exhausting.”
Lynn, standing just behind Brown, added, “it is exhausting.”