FAIRBORN — An estimated 200 peaceful protesters took to the streets of Fairborn starting at 3 p.m. Thursday.
Organized by alumni from Fairborn High School, the demonstrators marched the length of Main Street before taking a knee outside the public library. Demonstrators sat in silence for nine minutes, representing the approximately nine minutes that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin allegedly pressed his knee into the neck of George Floyd.
Local businesses supplied water and snacks to those battling the June heat.
Among the shouts raised by the protesters were the names of Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor, whose names have become emblematic of the struggle against police brutality in recent weeks.
Fairborn police attended the protest in uniform to direct traffic and ensure the safety of the participants.
“We are here to make sure they were safe, that they would have a chance to come out and express their views. We wanted to just make sure they had a safe environment to do that,” said Fairborn Police Chief Terry Bennington. Bennington released a statement earlier this week denouncing the events in Minneapolis leading to Floyd’s death.
Many of the protesters were students or alumni of Fairborn High School, including the protest’s principal organizer, Anya Tassy.
“I’ve always been aware of the injustices, but now that I’m old enough, I decided it was time to take it into my own hands and organize something,” Tassy said.
Community was a principal focus for Tassy and the other organizers.
“We wanted it to be super accessible,” Tassy said. “Downtown Fairborn is not that big, so we wanted to make sure that everybody can come and no one would be deterred from the walk.”
One of the protesters, Nicol Oller, also emphasized community in demands for change.
“If it’s someone in your community, you’ve seen them. You trust them and they trust you,” Oller said.
Protests around the Miami Valley have been handled very differently, explained Oller, who has had personal experience with most.
“In Beavercreek we were there 20 minutes and I got gassed, whereas in Kettering you could see the change,” Oller said. “They came out, talked to us and said the things they needed to say. The Fairborn police are doing pretty well. They’re not in riot gear. They’re here with us and they’re not here against us. That speaks volumes, but there’s still a long way to go.”
Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532