KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Several Black greek letter organizations gathered Saturday for a peaceful protest, calling for justice and action.
The demonstration was organized by the Iota Alpha chapter of Omega Psi Phi. Protesters marched silently from the Alex Haley Heritage park to Market Square where they gathered for an 8 minute and 46 second moment of silence.
Frank Shanklin Jr., a member of Omega Psi Phi says these protests are not just for the recent death of George Floyd, but for all of the Black Americans that have been killed over the course of history.
“The death of George Floyd is probably the capstone of years of things that have happened and it was just the cameras on the phones that have caught all the incidents. But its not only about the George Floyd and the Breonna Taylor, it goes all the way back to the Emmett Till and the years where no one knew who killed him.” Shanklin said.
This demonstration followed the lead of hundreds of protests happening around the country, but also had a call to action. Demonstrators were encouraged to let their voices be heard in more ways than one. The local chapter of the NAACP was present to take new members, there were volunteers from the Knox County Democratic Party to help attendees register to vote, as well as Knoxville College, taking applications for prospective students.
Lakenya Middlebrook, a volunteer with the Knox County Democratic Party spoke about the importance of raising your voice through your vote.
“I think it’s so critical that we engage the community in civic participation. To say ‘yes it’s important to take to the streets, it’s important to have physical demonstration of the issues that are concerning our community and what we want to see in our community and our concerns’ But it’s also critical that those voices be heard at the ballot box.” Middlebrook said.
Tanya Coats, a member of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Incorporated says brutality against Black people in America is something that has been happening for years.
“The 8 minutes and 46 seconds have been going on for over 100 years and we wanted to make sure that we had that silent remembrance today and knowing that we are still apart of the community.” Coats said.
The protesters say that we have a long way to go, but demonstrations like these are important first steps in the right direction.