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In Bowling Green, Protesters Vow to Keep Showing Up to Demand an End to Racial Injustice

Colin Jackson

By now, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery have become household names. 

The deaths of the three Black individuals have sparked days of nationwide protesting against racism and police violence. 

Over the weekend in Bowling Green, a crowd estimated at 1,000 people gathered in Circus Square Park for the city's largest demonstration yet.

Friday would have been Taylor's 27th birthday. She was a Louisville emergency medical technician killed while police were executing a no-knock warrant on her home. 

Taylor's name, along with the others, has become a common rallying cry heard in Bowling Green's demonstrations, which have been growing.

Speaking from a stage before Friday's march to the Warren County Justice Center, Omega Buckner from the group Miracle Life gave her view of the situation.

"All the old heads who have been around can testify to this," Buckner said, "What we're seeing, marches all over the world for one cause, saying that our Black lives matter has never occurred in the history of America."

The protests began in late May after George Floyd died when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes. Speaking Friday, Bowling Green Police Deputy Chief Mike Delaney referenced a video of the incident. 

"As a peace officer, and as a Black man, I watched that video. So I got disgusted twice," Delaney said.

Delaney and other local law enforcement leaders have publicly denounced the officers involved in Floyd's death. 

All four seen in the video now face criminal prosecution. Still, the overwhelming sentiment in Bowling Green was that the work is not done.

Bowling Green-Warren County NAACP president Ryan Dearbone spoke after another speaker spent three minutes reading names of some of the individuals who have died in police encounters.

"Those who hate, they're willing to die for their cause. They're willing to die, to put their lives, their careers on the line for their cause. Are we willing to do the same?" Dearbone asked, "She named off too many names."

One of the demonstrators, a Western Kentucky University graduate from Memphis who went by the mononym Chase,  shared in Dearbone's sentiment while reflecting on the constant nature of the ongonig protests.

"It's necessary. Systematic racism is real. It's something that's every single day. You have to work towards it. You can't be like, 'Oh, I want racism to stop.' And so, Bowling Green, we're taking that intiative. We're making it happen," Chase said.

Yet, some city leaders, like Commissioner Dana Beasley Brown, who gave out her personal cell phone number to demonstrators a week prior, said people need to remain mindful of how much their input matters.

"I have received in the last week, three emails about this issue. That's it," Beasley-Brown said.

She was just one of a handful of elected leaders that attended. Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower spoke along with Deputy Chief Delaney. State Rep. Patti Minter also spoke. Meanwhile, Bowling Green Mayor Bruce Wilkerson mingled through the crowd.

Bowling Green resident Caprice Stewart has been a frequent volunteer at each of the local protests, registering people to vote, passing out water, and providing some medical attention in the heat.

"It's important becuase I think that everybody deserves equal treatment, the same love, the same sight in everyone's eyes and I think it's important that my daughter knows too," Stewart said.

She said she would like to see government leaders come out in support of the protesters nationwide like they have in Bowling Green.

In addition to elected officials, candidates for city commission like Francisco Serrano and Carlos Bailey also spoke.

Police have been fixtures at the near-daily demonstrations since they began a little over a week ago. The first time dozens of individuals gathered in Circus Square Park, it was because of information shared on a Facebook status, not an event page. A midday march a couple days later spread by word of mouth and social media posts to Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter.

Now, both groups organizing demonstrations, BG Freedom Walkers and Bowling Green For Peace, have made their own social media pages to announce future events.

Each event had grown in attendence, for the most part, as last week went on. Protesters have said they're prepared to keep it up as long as they feel racial injustice is prevalent.

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