BY MICAH BECK
Protests over the recent death of George Floyd, an African American male who died while being restrained by Minneapolis police officers, are being held in Wadsworth over this entire week.
Among the protesters were many Wadsworth High School students, holding up signs with phrases such as “Black Lives Matter” and “End Police Brutality.” Protesters gathered downtown, including in the gazebo island and in front of Wadsworth City Hall, which houses the Wadsworth Police Department (WPD).
The initial protest was organized by Wadsworth High School graduate Jake Petty and senior Clayton Philips, who used social media to spread the word. They organized it after feeling the need to have their voices heard on the subjects of police brutality and injustice.
“I thought it would be great to give African Americans living in Wadsworth, as well as everybody else, a chance to voice their opinion in a group, despite how much hate we knew we would receive,” said Phillips, who could be seen at the protest holding up a sign with “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!” written on it. “I had been protesting all weekend… first in Canton, and then in Cleveland on Saturday.”
The protest was met with mostly positive reception from citizens of Wadsworth, with people honking to show support and commenting positively on the way things were executed. However, there were a few points during the protest where passersby shouted expletives, and, at one point, a male left his vehicle and shouted racial slurs.
Police were not immediately available upon request for comment on the incident.
The gathering in Wadsworth came as protests are actively erupting across the nation, many turning violent. However, Petty says their demonstration could not have gone better, despite the few incidents with counter-protestors.
“I think [the protest] went as expected, and even better,” said Petty, in an interview conducted over Facebook. “There were two people who stopped to yell at us, and one person who got out of his car to cause problems, but we remained peaceful.”
The protests continued for the second night in a row on June 1, with a significantly larger number of people involved, including some families. Sisters Shamya and Sharya Thompkins, both African American high school students, were in the center of the crowd, leading chants and cheers.
“It’s everyone’s problem, and everyone has to be involved for things to change,” said Shamya, with her sister adding in that “we need to brush off the negative comments and continue doing what we’re doing.”
Phillips says there are plans to continue protests on weekends until “justice is served”, and calls on residents of Wadsworth to join them in their fight for freedom, citing that more people can come out. He hopes for a number of protestors that is more representative of Wadsworth’s population of 23,000.
“I really did not expect the amount of support that we got,” said Shamya. “The protests are going to keep going as long as people want to keep coming out with signs and support.”
COVER PHOTO BY AXEL MUELLER