PORT TOWNSEND — “Silence is Violence.” Compassionate Peacekeeping Now.” Black Lives Matter.”
At least 100 to 150 Port Townsend High School students took to the streets on Friday to march in protest of deaths of Black people at the hands of police officers.
They remembered George Floyd, 46, who died in Minneapolis, Minn. on May 25 when officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face down on the street. Chauvin and three other officers have been charged in his death.
Students also carried signs in memory of Breonna Taylor, who was shot eight times and killed March 13 by Louisville, Ky. police officers who forced their way into her home on a no-knock warrant. According to her family’s lawyers, the subject of the investigation was not Taylor, but a man she had dated previously who had once sent a package to her apartment.
Taylor would have celebrated her 27th birthday on Friday.
The march began at 4:30 p.m. at the Port Townsend Police Station at 1925 Blaine St., Suite 100, and worked its way to the intersection of Sims Way and Haines Place.
The point was a peaceful demonstration against police brutality and racism, said freshman Zoe Cook, one of the organizers.
“It’s more about us getting our voices heard and saying what we want to say and of course mourning the death of George Floyd and many other African-Americans,” Cook said.
The march was organized by predominately freshmen and sophomores via social media, with the idea of creating a youth-led march after many of the students participated in other organized marches and protests in the previous weeks.
‘We started messaging in an Instagram group about when and how we wanted to plan it and after we chose a date, Rosie (Crecca, another student organizer) had a meeting with a public safety officer on how to make this the most safe with the community,” Cook said.
Interim Police Chief Troy Surber says in a statement posted on the Port Townsend Police Department’s website at https://cityofpt.us/police after Floyd’s death that “We want each and every person in Port Townsend and Jefferson County – regardless of race, sexual orientation, gender, religion or national origin — to be included and to know that everyone’s safety is important. As public servants, our actions must always reflect this.”
Students, who have been out of school since March due to the COVID-19 pandemic, asked all who participated in the protest to wear masks and maintain social distancing.
“It’s less of a protest in a big meeting location and more of a march, where we will be traveling from one location to the next so we are not all crammed in one tight location,” Cook said.
Asked if they thought they would be having conversations with teachers about the deaths of Blacks and the unrest if they were studying in school buildings, many said that some teachers might discuss the topic, but that it would be difficult to do so without entering into discussions on politics.
“The schools tend to be pretty cautious about engaging in political conversations,” Crecca said.
Students agreed that they would like to have more conversations about world issues in school.
In a town like Port Townsend, which is predominately white, Crecca said the students hoped the protest would raise awareness “because a lot of us do have the privilege to talk about this and to stand up because these things don’t affect most of us.”
Reporter Ken Park can be reached at [email protected]