‘United we stand’
Respectful, passionate and vocal, a multi-racial gathering of more than 200 people assembled in downtown Brownwood at noon Monday to protest the deaths of George Floyd and other unarmed African American males at the hands of police officers.
Brownwood and Early police officers were present and blocked off intersections as the protesters, carrying signs and calling out phrases such as “I can’t breathe!” marched from the courthouse to Brownwood City Hall, down Adams Street and back to the courthouse.
Some of the officers marched with the protestors, and Brownwood Mayor Stephen Haynes and other city officials were also present. In front of City Hall, the protesters lay face-first on the pavement for nine minutes, calling out repeatedly — commemorating the May 25 death of Floyd — “I can’t breathe!”
Brownwood Police Lt. James Kidd also lay on the pavement.
Back at the courthouse, several including Kidd spoke, capping an event that was emotional but peaceful, which organizers of the protest had insisted on. While speakers condemned police brutality in events including the death of Floyd, speakers also voiced support for law enforcement officers who follow the creed of protecting and serving.
The protest was organized by a handful of young adults who took to Facebook and Twitter to invited people to assemble at the courthouse.
As protesters began gathering on the south lawn of the courthouse, co-organizer Stephanie Goins spoke to the media before addressing the gathering. Many carried signs with messages including “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice No Peace” and “History Should Not Repeat Itself” and “Say His Name! George Floyd.”
“We’re trying to send out a message that all lives matter, but especially black lives at this moment, because George Floyd was taken too soon from us along with a bunch of others against horrible police brutality,” Goins said. “And I’m not saying all police are bad, but I am saying that some are, and we’re trying to get that message out.
“We’re all here in support of our black brothers and sisters. For too long they have been annihilated and prosecuted. George Floyd was murdered by a police officer on May 25, 2020. He begged for his life and pleaded, yelling he could not breathe. An innocent man was taken. He’s not the only one.”
Goins recited several other names of the dead, then continued, “For too long black people have been seen as thugs and criminals. We’re here to say today that black people are doctors, lawyers, teachers, sons, daughters moms, dads, that black lives do matter.”
As the protest’s organizers prepare to lead a march to City Hall, Goins admonished the protesters to remain peaceful.
“We do not want to cause any harm to anyone,” Goins said. “We are here peacefully. We would like to walk arm in arm with these police officers, hoping that no one is going to be harmed. If you have the intention of harm, you may as well leave this protest right now because it is peaceful. It will remain peaceful through the entire time.”
No one present seemed to have any other intent.
As the protesters marched, they called out Floyd’s name and chanted several phrases including “Justice for all … I can’t breathe …”
Brownwood Police Chief Ed Kading, Early Police Chief David Mercer and Brownwood police Lt. Troy Carroll walked in the street adjacent to the protestors. Assistant Brownwood Police Chief James Fuller drove a police vehicle slowly down the street, escorting the protesters and keeping the vehicle adjacent to the marchers.
At City Hall, several city officials stood outside and waited for the protesters. As organizers asked protesters to lie face down in honor of Floyd, city officials lay among the protestors.
After nine minutes, organizers invited protestors to stand. “We even have an officer laying with us right now,” a co-organizer called out. She was referring to the blue-uniformed Kidd, the Brownwood police operations lieutenant. Protesters applauded and cheered.
Others spoke briefly, including Nadine Norman, who said, ‘the bottom line is, united we stand — united on what our country was built on. All men are created …”
“Equal,” protesters responded.
After protesters returned to the courthouse, co-organizer Shane Huff told protestors — who once again gathered on the south lawn — that “our young men need to be able to go out and play in their yards and not worry about a cop coming up and throwing them on the ground. … police brutality needs to stop today.”
Huff asked Kidd and Brownwood’s mayor Haynes to step forwarded onto the courthouse steps.
“They may wear a badge,” Huff said “They may sit in an office. But at the end of the day they’re still fighting for all of us. Just because we’ve got sick, twisted cops who think they can hide behind a badge, doesn’t mean we don’t have these good officers helping protect every single one of us at the end of the day.”
Huff said it angers her when protesters in other cities yell disparaging remarks toward police.
“At the end of the day, when I have somebody breaking into my car, or I need an ambulance because I have a brain tumor, I’m damn proud to call my officers and know that I’m going to be protected,” Huff said. “ I’m proud I’m able to call my mayor and say ‘I have this issue with my landlord, what can I do’ and he helps me solve the issue so the landlord can’t rent that house.”
Huff also said detectives are working on a case for someone she knows.
Kidd spoke briefly, telling protesters, “I knew I’d be emotional. My wife and my family can attest to that. It was rough for me this week, seeing everything. I met one male while ago who hugged me. I can’t put myself in his place. I can only see what his perception would be.”
Kidd said he’d been impacted by the experience of lying on the ground for nine minutes in honor of Floyd. “Nobody should have to do that for one second,” Kidd said. “It gives you a totally different perspective. So we’re committed. We want to thank God and bless God for this opportunity.
“But let’s learn from it and grow from it, everybody together. … we don’t want corrupt cops. We don’t want unjustified killings. We don’t want any of that stuff going on and we’re committed.”
Another co-organizer, Angel Jones, said, “I’m a nurse here in town. I have two black sons and I would hate for something like this to happen to them. We’re just trying to join together here and trying to join and raise awareness here.”
As protesters began to leave, co-organizer Madison Andrews explained her involvement.
“I had seen all this stuff in the media, and I was tired of sitting by and not doing anything about it,” Andrews said. “With the help of Angel and Stephanie, we really helped spread the word through (social media) and helped get the word out.”