Protestors march in uptown Athens in support of Black Lives Matters and George Floyd, recently killed in Minnesota while in police custody. [WOUB Photo]

Peaceful Powerful Protest in Athens After The Death Of George Floyd

Posted on:

< < Back to

ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — A peaceful protest was held in uptown Athens on Saturday as anger and protests mount across the United States over the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis.

A group of about one hundred students and supporters chanted, “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe!” crossing toward the College Green section of Ohio University campus.

The phrase has become a symbol of police brutality and racism as it is one of the last things George Floyd was heard saying while a police officer pinned him down with his knee on his neck for some 7 to 9 agonizing minutes. It was also the last words Eric Garner said in 2014 while a New York City officer was choking him. Both men died.

“I can’t breathe!” “I can’t breathe” was one of the most compelling chants heard in the peaceful protest in Athens on Saturday. [WOUB Photo]
The Athens crowd showed after 2 p.m. outside the Athens County Clerk of Courts and lasted until close to 5 p.m.

Despite most Ohio University students being out of town, a crowd gathered and walk through uptown wearing face masks and carrying signs of support for the Black Lives Matter movement and protesting racism and police brutality.

Brooklyn Stallworth and Johanna Antonuccio, both seniors at OU, were the organizers of this march. They started it Friday by making posters that they were planning to hang in town but later decided to make a post in social media calling for the protest.

“There is a lot of protests right now, I just thought it was important to bring it to this community,” said Stallworth.

Johanna Antonuccio, one of the protest organizers along with Brooklyn Stallworth, showcases a support poster. [WOUB Photo]
Antonuccio, addressing the fact that the majority of people in the crowd were white, said, “I feel that it is extremely important right now for white people to use their privilege and speak out. Because, you know, we do have the privilege in this society and it’s important to stick out for those who don’t.

The protestors carried signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” “No Justice, No Peace,” “Silence Is Violence,” and “Enough Is Enough.” They stayed by the courthouse and then marched to College Green and back into uptown chanting “Say their names!” and “Black lives matters!”

Outside the Athens County Clerk of Courts in uptown Athens, a group of students wearing masks hold signs while cars passing by honked in support. [WOUB Photo]
Mary Chumbow, an international graduate student said she wanted to participate in the protest because “I’m a black person living in America, raising a black son in America and I need this to stop. It needs to stop.”

Stallworth and Antonuccio said they weren’t sure when the next protest will be but that people should stay alert to social media as other protests in support may be coming up. No police presence was seen during the coverage of this protest.

Students and supporters march through College Green campus [WOUB Photo]
Beyond the protests

Mary Tigner-Rasanen, an Athens community member, said she attending the protest to try to help change things, “Racism in this country and the way black people are treated, and the way they live in fear and they are not safe. And that’s on every white person to help change that.”

While not a part of Saturday’s demonstration, hometown hero and the NFL’s #1 draft pick Joe Burrow previously tweeted his support for more empathy and action.

And,  Showing Up for Racial Justice, (SURJ)  an organization that, according to its website, “moves white people to act as part of a multi-racial majority for justice with passion and accountability” has a chapter based in Athens. The local group holds meetings on how to be better allies and shares information in support of condemning racism in this country.