by JUSTIN COOPER
For the second time in a week, a peaceful crowd marched down Big Beaver Road toward Troy City Hall on Friday, June 5 in protest against police violence and the murder of George Floyd.
Friday’s march, estimated by Mayor Ethan Baker to be 1,500-strong, was organized by CarriAna Smith, 18, who graduated last year from Athens High School. From the school’s parking lot, the crowd embarked on a 5-mile route down roads blocked to traffic by police vehicles and stopped in a courtyard in front of City Hall. Once at City Hall, Smith addressed the crowd circled through a megaphone.
“We will not be silenced,” she said. “To my uncomfortable racist people, suck it up … Don’t sit here and tell us that not every cop is bad. We know that. Tell them that all black people are not a threat.”
Troy School District faced backlash on Twitter this week to their largely white faculty and alleged mishandling of racist and prejudiced incidents. Smith said the march’s starting point was unrelated to that, but she’s “proud” of those who shared their stories.
“People think just because Troy is diverse we all are welcomed,” she told the Gazette. “I have personally been discriminated, harassed and disrespected because of the color of my skin … I don’t want everyone that looks like me going through what I had to go through.”
The cause of the march mirrored those of similar protests across the world. Marchers frequently chanted “No justice, no peace, no racist police” and enumerated the names of black people killed by law enforcement.
“I’m tired of this, we need to get something changed,” a protester named Jordan said. “This man was screaming that he can’t breathe, and until the end of my days, I will be using the breath that I have to speak for justice.”
“It’s really great to see so many people out here standing up for what’s right, and I hope that the energy continues through to November,” Troy resident Kaitlyn Prebelich said.
Several prominent local officials marched alongside the protesters, including Mayor Baker, State Rep. Padma Kuppa, and Oakland County Treasurer Andy Meisner, who is also running for county executive.
“Racial injustice has to be addressed, even in Troy,” Mayor Ethan Baker said. “We’re not going to stand for it.”
“We’re here to listen,” State Rep. Padma Kuppa said. “Go towards the pain. The people who are in pain are the ones who need our help.”
Like a similar march on Monday, the event was peaceful and coordinated in advance with the Troy Police Department.
“No one was hurt. No one was threatened or mistreated,” officer John Julian said. “We’re here being supportive, even if people don’t necessarily like us.”
Smith’s mother, Jakea Hunter, was by her side during her speech, at times holding her shoulders and encouraging her.
“It’s wonderful that we’re standing up, however, it’s a continual thing we have to do,” Hunter said. “It’s a daily practice of not just expecting justice from the justice system, but giving justice to one another.”