By Tia Lynn Ivey
Chants of “No Justice, No Peace” could be heard ringing through the downtown streets of Madison last Saturday, as hundreds of people peacefully marched more than three miles from the historic courthouse to the Morgan County Public Safety Complex to protest police brutality and systemic racism.
The Madison March was just one of thousands of protests happening around the world in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.
Four women organized the Madison March, which drew hundreds of people, comprised of activists, clergy folks, local politicians, local law enforcement officers, and everyday citizens. The march served as a strong symbol of unity, yielding a diverse crowd—black and white folks of all ages marching together side by side for racial equality.
Regina Massey, Ashley Massey, Tiffany Williams, and Sabrina Benford organized the march, which began with a rally on the steps of the Historic Morgan County Courthouse.
The organizers released a statement about the reasons for the march.
“We are marching for justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and so many other people of color who lost their lives because of the color of their skin,” said a statement from organizers on the march’s Facebook page. “We are also marching to bring awareness to end systemic racism in rural Georgia. Please come with a positive mind and soul because this is just a start to a better situation. Absolutely everyone is welcome to participate who wants to make a change.”
About 300 people showed up to the march on Saturday morning.
Pastor W.J. Reid opened the event in prayer. Madison Mayor Fred Perriman delivered uplifting calls for racial equality and justice.
“The time for racism is over,” said Perriman. “We join together with our city and our county to show support for what is happening in our world and nation. We are here to let George Floyd’s family know, and all black Americans, that the time for racism is over and it is now a time for love, a time for peace, and time for to be together as one.”
Perriman urged the crowd not to allow Floyd’s death to be in vain.
“Floyd lost his life, as did so many others, and from it we must bring about change in the lives of men and women of all races,” said Perriman. “Now is the time to make a difference in our community and in our nation.”
Morgan County Sheriff Robert Markely stood with protestors and acknowledged the failures of police throughout the country when it comes to race relations.
“We need a little less warrior and a little more guardian,” said Markley of how police officers should behave with the public. “We have to work hard even in Morgan County to make sure these thingss don’t happen.”
Hundreds of protesters armed with signs and water bottles set out on the three-mile journey to the Public Safety Complex. As they marched, they held signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” “Stop Killing Us,” and other slogans while chanting “no justice, no peace.”
All along 441, passing cars honked in support of protesters. One man riding a motorcycle wearing a KKK jacket was spotted circling the march several times before riding off without incident.
At the Public Safety Complex protesters kneeled for nearly 9 minutes, the same length of time Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against George Floyd’s neck. Names of other unarmed African-Americans killed by police were read out loud as protesters reflected and prayed.
Speakers urged the crowd to not only continue marching, but becoming more involved at the local level to ensure racial equality and fair representation. Demarius Brinkley, a 25-year-old Morgan County High School graduate and Moorehouse College alum, implored the crowd to strategize and organize in the long-term work for racial equality.
“There are those who characterize our marching as unnecessary, characterizing our marching as divisive, characterizing our marches as illegitimate. But we are not marching to disrupt the pavement, we are marching to spread the pavement,” said Brinkley, who advocated for more diversity in elected local positions.
“We cannot stop spreading the pavement until there is no legacy of poverty in Canaan District. We cannot stop spreading the pavement if there is not representation for all in the educational infrastructure of Morgan County. We cannot stop marching until there is representation in our elected positions on the Downtown Development Authority and on the Historic Preservation Commission.”
Ashley Massey, one of the march organizers, urged the crowd to not just march, but to vote, and then continue to protest.
“Enough is enough,” said Massey. We are going to fight—we are not going to fight like you are seeing on your television, but we are going to protest and protest and protest until our voices are known.”