Bowling Green Activists Discuss What's Next With Protests

Jun 17, 2020

Left to right: Megan Bailey, State Rep. Patti Minter, Derik Overstreet, Karika Nelson and Colin Jackson.
Credit Becca Schimmel

With protests against racial injustice happening across the nation, WKU Public Radio reporters sat down with community activists who have been organizing individuals in Bowling Green.

Sitting under a pavilion at Keriakes Park, members of the Bowling Green Freedom Walkers and Bowling Green for Peace, as well as Kentucky Rep. Patti Minter (D-Bowling Green), discussed where the summer goes from here.


Editor's Note: The following transcription contains select highlights from an hour-long discussion. In it, Kentucky Rep. Minter references Louisville native Breonna Taylor's death as a "murder".  No charges have been filed against the Louisville Metro Police Officers involved in her death.

Karika Nelson: I think we have the momentum, the younger generation, like, I feel like we all want to do something, even if we don't know what we should or ought to do. I mean, I think we all have power in the numbers of the people to make a change. We just don't know what to do. I think we've been on the back of Martin Luther King, my whole life, and I'm 30. That we see how peaceful he was and how he tried to use city officials as allies. But we don't really know the whole process. With me, it's a learning experience by working with city officials to police, my team. Derik, with his group, just trying to brainstorm ideas on how we can implement change and make Bowling Green a better place.

Rep. Minter: To me, it's about awareness. What the past history of social movements teaches us and about, the struggle for Black freedom teaches us, is that the work is never done. It's ongoing. And you know, to me, as a historian, and as an activist and as a legislator, my question is, "Is this our Freedom Summer?"

Megan Bailey: Well it's understanding that, though we did have activists, we did have, Dr. King, we did have even Charles Neblett. But it's understanding that we stand on their shoulders, that the fight is still...it still continues. But how long are we going to live their dream? Now, we build a new situation. And we continue that fight. We carry on that mantle, we take that fire, and we move it along as the new activists of this era.

Derik Overstreet: Everything's still brand new. I mean, we're learning on the job as it goes, but it's going pretty well with all these people jumping on ship like this. I've never seen anything like it. People from different classes and races all coming out at the same time to support the same thing. Out of nowhere. We've literally existed for probably about a week, both of us, and to have that amount of support, that kind of turnout overnight is, it's different, it feels really different. And it'd be a good thing to keep this going for multiple years, even past this. I think it's gonna run past the summer. I think it'll  run through the election, probably into early next year. And then it'll be a thing of staying stable and keeping continually working for change. But yeah, then it's like a summer thing. It feels like...at this point, it feels like I'm here for life. But you can't really start something like this and then jump off the ship.

Megan Bailey: And we have the blueprint. The blueprint is there. It's about seeing the blueprint, recognizing the blueprint, and then being willing to listen to those generations that have done this before. Those people that have already done these marches, and they're 60 and 70, and 80 and 90, and they're willing to talk to us. It's about not pushing them away, and acting as though their contribution doesn't matter. Sit down and have those conversations and get that encouraging word. They're behind us. They just want to be helpful. It's about moving forward into legislation, having real people, real residents, real citizens in these office seats, rather than people that could pay to be there. There's a difference.

Karika Nelson: Getting all of the community out to vote is where it's going to start, getting the right people in offices. I know it's kind of hard, like just learning with politics, but everybody that smiles on your face, like Megan said, is not on your side. They might be out there to look pretty and, you know, 'Hey, Black Lives Matter.' But on Monday morning, when we have a list of demands, and we send it to whoever, they're going to be the first person that's going to not vote on it. So we've got to vote the right people in that really care about the movement, that really care about the people, that really care about fairness, about social, any type of discrimination, about implementing change, we got to get those right people in office, from city to state to federal office.

Megan Bailey: So voting is vital. (If) you don't go out and vote then you have little to nothing to say when when things don't go your way.

Derik Overstreet: In terms of direct stuff, I wrote down disproportionate minority contact, both locally and nationally. What I wrote down is that I worked at the juvenile detention center for a little bit. And I did a lot of stuff before I even looked at it. Over 35% of juvenile arrests are Black. But Black people only make up 8% of the juvenile population. And how is that being addressed? Why is it still continuing when we know statistically in sociologically and criminalogically, through years and years of research, that it's a thing, but it keeps on consisting. And there's the pipeline of recidivism, meaning the people going back to prison keep being arrested over and over again, from juvenile detention centers, to prisons. Why is there a pipeline being made at that young age? And why is it consisting over this many years of research? And we know it's a thing? Why hasn't it been addressed in a very direct way yet, by policymakers? Why is the community not being up in arms about it? Because it's easy to find this stuff? Why is that not something being done? When we know that such a small percentage of the country is being targeted by police, and by judges at that aggressively disproportionate rate?

Megan Bailey: Yeah, a lot of times you can have the exact same exact same crime...They're parallel, they're twins and then your white criminal gets off with a slap on the wrist. And, you know what I'm saying, then the Black person is putting there for the rest of their lives...off of a weed charge, you know? Like it's un-proportioned, in sentencing as well.

State Rep. Minter: And we have an opportunity to do better next year in 2021 when your lawmakers go back. And you know, I plan to. I'm planning to lift up those voices into work for smart justice reform across the aisle because, again, there are a lot of Republicans who are here for that work as well. And I'm proud to do it with them. No knock warrants is something else I think we're going to be getting. No knock warrants. You know, the, murder of Breonna Taylor in her home because of a no knock warrant...has turned this into a national issue and local governments have the power, city commissions and Louisville Metro Council is on the verge of banning no knock warrants, but here it's Bowling Green City Commission. They have the power to ban them in our local area. I expect, as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, that we're going to be seeing legislation very soon, and I know I'll be co-sponsoring it to ban no knock warrants in the state of Kentucky.