Hundreds gathered in Bowling Green on Friday night as part of the global protests against police brutality and racial injustice.
The “We Need Justice” protest was organized by Karika Nelson, a Bowling Green native who founded the BG Freedom Walkers group more than a week ago amid public outcry over recent police-involved deaths of black Americans.
“Everybody’s upset, everybody’s tired, everybody can understand how George Floyd and Breonna Taylor’s families feel, but you can’t (fight) violence with violence,” Nelson said.
Taylor, a black woman, was fatally shot by Louisville police in mid-March during a no-knock raid. No one has been charged in Taylor’s death, but her mother, Tamika Palmer, has called for the arrest of the officers involved.
George Floyd, also black, died last month when then-Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes while Floyd pleaded for air. Chauvin, who is white, has been fired and charged with murder.
The BG Freedom Walkers hosted several protests over the last few days, and Nelson said the group is in the process of becoming a nonprofit organization.
“This is something for the community to try to implement change,” Nelson said.
People held signs at the protest that read, “Black Lives Matter,” “Skin color is not a weapon” and “No justice, no peace,” among others.
Attendees filled Circus Square Park – many of whom held signs and wore face masks due to the coronavirus pandemic – and listened to speakers before marching through the streets.
“The whole (city of) Bowling Green is here,” said LaToya White, who has attended two other BG Freedom Walkers protests. “(I want) the nation to come together, because God is love. It doesn’t matter what color we are, because we all breathe the same.”
From prayers to a ballad of “Amazing Grace,” more than 10 speakers spread their message to the crowd, including local ministers, an attorney, a teacher and Warren County Sheriff Brett Hightower.
Attendee Tyler Hunter, a lifelong Bowling Green resident, said people need to do more than protest.
“We need to implement a plan of action … (by) merging (cultures) together, finding some type of common ground to where we can better understand each other so we’re not discriminating from one another, or having biased opinions about one another,” he said. “We are one … we all pay taxes, we all work, we all want society (and) this country to thrive, and we all have to work together in order for that to happen.”
Hunter also said he believes Kentucky Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman’s call last week for bias training in public schools should extend into other industries, including social service fields and law enforcement.
“Anyone where you’re dealing with or working with a variety of ethnicities and race, you should have that training and that education,” he said.