Anti-racist and Black Lives Matter marches haven’t being occurring in just large cities. Small towns in the most rural parts of North Carolina have seen them too. BPR was at one in the westernmost end of North Carolina Thursday night:
Hundreds gathered in Murphy to support Black Lives Matter and remember the life of George Floyd.
“No Justice, No Peace. No Justice, No Peace...”
The demonstration was organized by TeLor Allen, Jake Reed and Emily Mills who were all born and raised in Murphy. Reed, who is 18, explained how it felt to see this many people come out. Murphy’s population is just 1,700 and its well-known as the first 2nd Amendment Sanctuary in the state.
“I feel like overwhelmed with love,” says Reed. He says that he identifies as white and his dad is a member of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
Reed wanted to get together a small group of friends to hold up Black Lives Matter signs downtown.
On Monday night, they made a private Facebook group of 10 friends to talk about the event - the next day there were over 200 people in the group, by Thursday it was over 600.
“We’re going to cross the street then we are going to stay on the sidewalk.”
The event was peaceful as the crowd moved from the old train depot up to the Main street to stop in front of the county courthouse. A group of people laid down on the ground with their hands behind their backs saying: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”
Then the crowd stood in 8 minutes and 48 seconds of silence - the amount of time the police officer held his knee on the neck of George Floyd.
Allen, who is 19 and identifies as a black woman, spoke after the silence:
“Those 8 minutes and 48 seconds were troubling. People are belittling this movement by saying, ‘Well, all 4 officers are arrested. Why are you still here?’ George Floyd is not the only person who has been a victim of police brutality, who has been a victim of injustices. George Floyd was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back,” says Allen.
Reed and Mills also spoke. Reed explains that he did not think that he would be here a year ago.
“A year ago, I thought [right now] I would be at PRIDE Atlanta celebrating love and the freedom to do so with my friends. But how can anyone love or be happy when there is so much hate and discrimination in this country that promises liberty and justice for all?,” asks Reed.
Mills, who is 20, says, “Thank you for the courage to stand here today and to do what is right to take a stand for justice.”
Cherokee County Sheriff Derrick Palmer gave a speech as well quoting Martin Luther King and the Bible. Palmer says,“I was sickened to see what happened in Minneapolis to George Floyd by the hands of law enforcement officers who were sworn to protect their community.”
Cindy Palmer, his wife, is currently under investigation as the former director of Cherokee County DSS. She was still employed as the business officer at DSS in May.
The day of the demonstration, there were rumors of counter protests from local militia and the KKK but there were no visible signs of either group. There were small moments of tension from bystanders watching the demonstration including this one:
“All Lives Matter!’ says someone from outside the crowd. “Not until Black Lives Matter!” responds a woman that was part of the demonstration. The crowd cheers.
Margaret Scaglione is 80-years-old. She watched from the sidelines.
“I’m surprised at this demonstration in our little town. Becayse as far as I know - and I’m a lifetime resident - there’s not the problem here that they are talking about,” says Scaglione, who is white.
Bruno R. Coltri Jr. is a combat veteran who is originally from Chicago. A group of combat veterans who are also in a motorcycle group stood around the Veteran’s Monument on the end of the main street throughout the demonstration.
“No one is going to desecrate that. We had enough stuff in Washington that was desecrated. It’s time for an end. It’s time for these kids to get their heads straightened out, because one day they are going to need the police,” says Coltri.
Farrah Eller, who is African American, says she brought her 12-year-old daughter Kyla to the demonstration to show her that there are people in county who care.
“I thought it was awesome. I’m so proud of all these young kids. And I'm proud to live here because of them,” says Eller.
According to the Murphy Police Department no one violated the town’s 9 p.m. curfew. They estimate over 300 people attended the demonstration.