Butler County protests drawing many young participants: What organizers are saying

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

A crowd of about 100 gathered at the Hamilton and Butler County government center on Wednesday, June 3, 2020, in protest.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

The protests against racial injustice around the region have been peaceful, and organizers say the young crowds have represented diverse backgrounds.

On the heels of George Floyd, an unarmed black man, being killed last week by a Minneapolis police officer, several demonstrations have been held throughout Butler County. The chants have sounded the same: black lives matter and police need to be held accountable for their actions, and the people delivering those messages in Butler County events have been largely young and white.

The crowds have been about 75 percent white and 25 percent black and most of the protesters have been younger than 30 years old, according to organizers.

MORE: PHOTOS: Crowd gathers for peaceful protest and march in Middletown

Jessie Grabert, 34, of West Chester, organized the demonstration Tuesday night at West Chester Clock Tower. After the peaceful event, Grabert said she heard from some of her black friends. She said their message was consistent: “Now the white people are listening.”

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Protestors march in downtown Middletown on Wednesday, June 3, 2020.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

At Sunday’s rally in Hamilton, Taylor Stone-Welch, of Hamilton, said he noticed that more than half of the 350 protesters were white.

“I would say that when you see this many white people pissed off, it shows you something’s really, really bad,” he said. “When white people are actually at the point where they’re out here in numbers, something has got to change.”

Many of those who attended the demonstration Wednesday afternoon at the Middletown City Building marched downtown. More than half of the 75 demonstrators were white.

Grabert, a mother of five children ranging from 15 months to 16 years old, said young people today have been raised on social media and have lived through several incidents of police violence toward black residents. She believes that’s one reason the protests include young whites.

“They are making a stand,” said Grabert, who brought her children to the demonstration. “They know it’s time to come together as a country. They are the ones who are setting the example.”

MORE: PHOTOS: Downtown Hamilton protest includes march, signs, chants

Ironically, after the protest one black man contacted Grabert about the lack of black representation at the demonstration.

“That’s the hate that divides our country,” she said.

She said the eight-minute video that allegedly showed officer Derek Chauvi, who was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter, knelling on Floyd’s neck, is “an eye-opener.”

That video has spurred daily protests throughout the country.

“People are saying, ‘Enough is enough,’” Grabert said. “That was a breaking point. This has got to stop.”

There was another protest Wednesday in Hamilton that drew about 100. It was organized by two teenage students.

Many people took turns at a bullhorn, leading many chants that included, “Skin color is not a crime,” and “No justice, no peace, no racist police.”

With drivers of semi trucks and those of other vehicles frequently blowing horns in support, the protesters, the great majority of them under age 30, held many signs and passionately yelled to vehicles. Around 7 p.m., the crowd, still more than 100, moved to the intersection of High and Front streets at the old Butler County Courthouse and continued conveying their message to passing traffic.

Jxy Gordon, 16, of Hamilton, who will be a high school junior at an online academy this fall, was one of the organizers. She said she wanted to have the event “to show peace, and to bring respect to all skin colors.”

The overall message she wished to convey: “Skin doesn’t define anything. It doesn’t matter what color you are. You should be allowed to walk freely, and not have to be scared of getting shot every day. I hope after all these protests that we can get that to happen.”

Connor Owens, who will be a junior at Hamilton High School, said he’s “tired of countless, innocent black lives lost at the hand of police. They need justice, and the dead don’t have a voice, so we’re here to give it to them.”

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