Demonstrators move peacefully through Courtland for justice, equality

Published 9:20 pm Sunday, June 7, 2020

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The momentum to demand justice and equality continues to build in Western Tidewater. Early Sunday evening, a group of 78 people — reportedly as many as 90 — first gathered at the Blackwater Library in Courtland. There was a large mixture of black and white adults, teens and children. As they marched down Main Street, most carried signs proclaiming such concerns as, “Black lives matter,” “I Can’t Breathe! Get off my neck” and “Stop the Complicity. Time to Stand Up.”

Southampton County Sheriff Josh A. Wyche Sr. joined with the demonstrators on Sunday. — Stephen H. Cowles The Tidewater News

Leading them were Jahnese Hawkins and Jasmine Davis, who began organizing this event via social media when Franklin had its first demonstration a week ago. Davis used a bullhorn to lead everyone in calling out such slogans as, “No justice! No Peace!” “Say his name! George Floyd!”

Floyd is the Minneapolis resident who died during an arrest by one of that city’s policemen on May 25. A video that was taken at the time apparently showed an officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for what was figured at 8 minutes and 46 seconds. He called out at one point, “I can’t breathe!” He died soon after. The officers involved have been charged. In that city and many other places throughout the country, there has been violent reaction in protests.

Locally, though, the demonstrations have all been peaceful.

Members of Community Fellowship Church from Capron and Sounding Trumpet Ministries from Courtland gather for a picture after the march. — Stephen H. Cowles The Tidewater News

Among the participants on Sunday was Southampton County Sheriff Josh A. Wyche Sr., who said beforehand that he was proclaiming that day as George Floyd Day. Afterward, he added, “I felt the need to be here.”

Walking with them as well were county deputies for safety and to help with traffic. Wyche also noted his appreciation to the Town of Courtland as well as the Virginia State Police and Franklin Police Department.

Hawkins and Davis said they want everyone to wake up, and added, “We want to be loved and respected as a black community.”

The two women intend to be at an announced demonstration at Franklin City Hall on Monday evening.

Tenecia Shearin and Yvonne Rose were on hand to encourage residents to register to vote if they had not yet done so.

Others who joined the event were members of Community Fellowship from Capron and Sounding Trumpet Community Fellowship from Courtland. Desiree Key was among them and said, “This meant a lot to me.”