Young adults decry violence

A racially mixed group of young adults from Columbus hopes to establish a Black Lives Matter chapter locally. The international organization campaigns against violence against blacks.

The informal group of about 15 local residents staged a peaceful protest for about two-and-a-half hours Thursday evening at the corner of Second and Washington streets in front of City Hall to draw attention to the police-involved killings of two black men last week. Organizer Brittany King, who is black and who also participated in Saturday’s Black Lives Matter event in downtown Indianapolis, said she picked the local site because of its high visibility to passing traffic.

Group members received mostly a positive reaction that included affirming honks from many passing motorists. They also said after hearing of the killings of five Dallas police officers late Thursday that those deaths from a black sniper were just as wrong as the original shootings.

Local protestor August Shipman, who is white and attended Saturday’s rally in Indianapolis, mentioned that Black Lives Matter in part allows people of all races “to stand in solidarity with oppressed people everywhere.”

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Shipman also said he feels this “is a time of national crisis with regard to racial issues.”

King has established a Black Lives Matter private Facebook page that soon may become public. She is asking those interested in her group’s effort to contact her.

“We’d also like to get to know the police here on a more personal level,” King said.

Hand-made signs displayed at the Columbus rally included messages such as “We Need National Reform in the Police Force,” “Who Will be Next?” and, from a white protester, “Privilege is Knowing I’ll Survive a Traffic Ticket.”

At the local protest, Columbus resident Mariam Scott said the Wednesday killing of Minnesota cafeteria manager Philando Castile during a traffic stop for a car’s broken taillight was the final straw for her. Castile told officers he was armed. His mate said he was reaching for his wallet and registration when he was shot four times at close range.

“Even if they were men who had a past (record), there still would be no reason to execute them,” said Scott, who is black. “I’m very passionate, because my husband is African American. So even if he simply goes out at night to go to the store now past 9 o’clock, I’m thinking, ‘Oh, no.’

“I worry every single time.”

She also worried days ago when someone called police about people setting off fireworks in their Columbus neighborhood. She and her husband were concerned they might attract undue attention simply because they are black — because of violence occurring nationally against blacks, many of them unarmed and nonthreatening.

“If you can do everything right, and still end up dead, then what’s the world coming to?”

White group member Jessarae Emberton said the Dallas officer killings “were a horrible tragedy, no doubt. But I don’t think it affected or changed the purpose of what we did Thursday. A lone shooter took matters into his own hands and killed five officers. That is very tragic. But it doesn’t mean that the entire group of people with the Black Lives Matter movement are out for blood.”

White local protester Kay Hickey said the issue is even more broad than Black Lives Matter.

“All lives matter,” Hickey said. “But it seems sometimes like black lives don’t matter as much as other lives.”

How to become involved

Columbus area residents interested in getting involved in a Black Lives Matter chapter locally are invited to contact Brittany King at brtking7@gmail.com

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Brian Blair is a reporter for The Republic. He can be reached at bblair@therepublic.com or 812-379-5672.