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“Your Move” protesters call for city to address police brutality

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About 100 protesters gathered in front of the Athens Armory building Sunday afternoon for the “Your Move” protest as they demanded change from people in positions of leadership. 

Protesters claimed that change has gone largely ignored, despite nationwide protests in support of Black lives. 

“Your Move,” which was namely in support of the Black Lives Matter movement, called on elected officials, police departments and education faculty to change what they said was a societal system that is disproportionately biased toward people of color, according to protest organizers Avery Pope and Keshawn Mellon, both Ohio University students.

Avery Pope (left) and Keshawn Mellon (right) lead a protest chant from the steps of the Athens County Courthouse on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020, in Athens, Ohio. Photo by Anthony Warner.

“Right now, people in power acknowledge a fault, but they neglect to take responsibility for the fault,” Pope said in an interview. “They lack any action plan to rectify the mistakes they made or to change it in general.”

Protesters marched south on Court Street, blocking incoming traffic and chanting “Black Lives Matter.” While marching, passerby honked their horns or stuck their fists out in support of the movement as they drove by.

The march ended in front of the Athens courthouse steps where protesters overtook part of Court Street until Athens police officers arrived to direct traffic.

Mellon said the protest was not just about Ohio U or the Athens community, but rather a response to anyone in a leadership position capable of making a change.

Athens Police Officer Joseph McGrew watches the crowd of protesters on Court Street in Athens, Ohio, on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020. Photo by Anthony Warner.

“Athens is just a micro example of the entire country right now. OU isn’t unique with its problem and Athens isn’t unique with its problem either,” Mellon said. “My hope is that after this, people will start having discussions of what authorities need to do to change things.”

While at the courthouse, protest organizers decried the university’s claim of being diverse and inclusive, despite not having a diverse enough faculty or students.

Protesters hold fists in the air on Court Street during the Your Move protest in Athens, Ohio, on Sunday, Aug. 30, 2020.

Organizers spoke out against the Athens Police Department as well and called for an open discussion between the department and the community. They claimed last October’s “Ask the Chief” meeting did not accomplish anything. 

“The police department needs to make adjustments on their behalf. We’ve done everything they’ve told us to do, we complied, we got on our knees, we put our hands up and we’ve educated ourselves,” Pope said. “They didn’t do their parts and didn’t put their guns down.”

Among protesters, Athens County Cop Watch group members — a community-led organization looking into police racism and violence — distributed fliers with figures on Athens County police racial bias toward people of color.

Damon Krane, a member of the Athens County Cop Watch and former candidate for city mayor, said national trends of racist policing can be seen in Athens County. Krane said city officials don’t acknowledge it, however, even after City Council passed a resolution declaring racism a public health crisis.

“We’re in a situation, where city officials are making policy based on fantasy, not fact, and while the fantasy is comforting for rich white liberals, it doesn’t do anything for anybody else, and that is the essence of institutional racism,” Krane said.

Near the end of the protest, organizers called for town hall meetings between community members and city officials to have an open discussion about what needs to change.

“This is our movement right now, the people in power have to make their efforts to make change now, because they’re not doing anything,” Pope said.

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