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Peaceful Salisbury march draws hundreds to say black lives, justice, unity matter

By Mark Wineka
mark.wineka@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY —  Christina Johnson and nine children with her family joined hundreds of others Saturday afternoon in what best could be described as a Black Lives Matter peace and unity march in downtown Salisbury.

“It’s beautiful because peace among all races is important,” Johnson said. “I want the children to realize we’re one race — I wanted this for them.”

Upwards of 500 people, in a march stretching at least two-and-a-half city blocks, traveled peacefully down Innes Street with chants punctuating the air. Scott Teamer, president of the local NAACP, held a bullhorn, and marching toward the front, he prompted many of the responses.

“Whose lives matter?” Teamer shouted at times, and the marchers’ answer came back loudly, “Black lives matter.”

Or Teamer might ask, “What do we want?”

“Justice,” the marchers shouted back.

“When do we want it?”

“Now.”

Many homemade signs were held by the marchers. They said things such as “136 black people killed by police officers this year,” “Blacks murdered in cold blood matters,” “We want equality” and “Our lives matter, too. Stop killing us.”

The Salisbury march follows recent police killings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota — shootings documented on camera and which have led to rallies, marches and vigils in cities across the country.

Saturday’s marchers left the parking lot at Big Lots on East Innes Street and with the help of Salisbury Police walked down the two westbound lanes of the street into the downtown, across the Square, past the Confederate monument and ended at the Park Sterling Bank at South Fulton Street.

Several speakers addressed the crowd at the bank before marchers headed home just before 2 p.m. There were many different T-shirts worn by marchers including those saying Black Lives Matter, Justice Now Movement and Embrace Your Heritage.

Marchers also carried large red, black and green Pan-African flags at the head of the walk.

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Police stopped traffic at the various intersections as the marchers passed by. Ages and races of the participants ran the gamut, from babies to the elderly. Salisbury Mayor Karen Alexander joined the march at one point in its route.

The march also was used as a chance to register voters. “We have to make this more than a march,” Teamer said of the voter registration effort. “This is a big part.”

Among the marchers, several messages rose to the top, such as police have to stop the black profiling and killing, society systematically devalues blacks, black-on-black crime must cease, and the community has to come together.

“Unity, that’s No. 1,” the march’s organizer, Rhonna Woodruff Oglesby, said prior to the walk. “We have to get on the same page. Maybe we can move on and resolve some other issues. This is just a start.”

Oglesby was the last speaker before the ground dispersed much later.

“It doesn’t stop now,” she told the large crowd. “A movement means we are moving.”

Linda White-Deyo echoed what Oglesby and many other marchers said Saturday.

“This is a start,” White-Deyo said. “All we wanted was a peaceful protest.”

She added she was impressed by the number of white people who joined the predominantly black march.

“It means a lot to see my community come together,” Latiffa Bestman said. “All we want is equality.” She added that Saturday’s march proved “we can come together if we want to.”

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Cathy Rhodes said she was a march participant because black male teens shouldn’t pay a tragic price just for being black and being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

“I have a lot of grandsons, and I’m trying to protect them,” she said.  “…They can’t be forced to be in their house, just because of the color of their skin.”

Police violence against blacks is something that has to be addressed everywhere, Alexis McCollough said. “It’s time for a change,” she said. “We’re trying to make a difference.”

Naticia Murray said she participated in the march because black lives matter and she wants the younger generation to be able to live in a peaceful world “that used to exist.”

Deanna Corpening said she was marching in support of her two daughters and son-in-law and the younger generation in general.

“We need a community center for youth,” she said.

Sarah Howell Williams also was marching  for her son, Joshua, who is 19 and autistic. But because of his height and complexion — he’s a black man — “What do you think the police will do, if the police saw him walking on the street?” Williams asked. “That’s why we’re here.”

How confused might he be? What misinterpreted movements would he make? How would police react because he’s tall and black? These are the kinds of questions weighing on his mother’s mind.

“He doesn’t have a chance,” Williams said.

In remarks to the crowd at the bank, Alex Clark said white people historically have come into the black community and “betrayed us,” and he described how blacks don’t control any banks, grocery stores or pharmacies.

Teamer described black-on-black killings as traitorous and said the perpetrators must not be protected but turned in. The percentage of blacks killing each other, speakers told the crowd, is higher than the percentage of police killing blacks.

Tamika Caldwell told blacks at the end of the march to fight against the enemy and not against each other. She said less than 1 percent of police officers involved in shootings are ever indicted, and when the shooting of five police officers in Dallas happened, that same night another unarmed black man was killed.

Black Lives Matter is not a moment, Caldwell emphasized, but a movement.

“We cannot pick and choose when black lives matter,” Oglesby added for emphasis.

Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263.

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