ALBANY — The chants echoed, redoubling back on the 200-plus-strong marchers who took part in the Black Lives Matter rally in downtown Albany Saturday.
“No justice, no peace, no racist police.”
It was a march reminiscent of the 1960s civil rights and anti-war movements, and few among the marchers would disagree that they were involved in a war, a war for the soul of a nation that, speakers said, had too long given only lip service when it came to the treatment of Black Americans.
“We are tired,” march co-organizer Sherrell Byrd said after the participants and other spectators gathered in the Veterans Park Amphitheatre. “We are tired of marching. We are tired of being attacked because of the color of our skin. We are tired of police treating us like criminals. We are tired of asking why. We are tired of dying.
“The question we all now face is, where do we go from here?”
When the marchers arrived at the amphitheater, they paused to listen to words from Ward VI Albany City Commissioner Demetrius Young, another march co-organizer, before “taking a knee for eight minutes and 46 seconds” — some even lying on their stomachs on the hot asphalt pavement with their hands behind their backs as George Floyd was forced to do when he was kneeled on by a Minneapolis police officer, ending his life.
“We all saw what brother George Floyd endured at the hands of a person who did not care about his life,” Young said. “No matter what he had done, he should not have died that way. Let’s take this time to understand why we say ‘black lives matter.’”
Among the speakers at the rally were newly appointed Dougherty Probate Court Judge Leisa Johnson and Jasmine Arbery, the sister of Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed by a white father and son near Brunswick while his family members say he was merely out for a jog. Jasmine Arbery wept as she remembered her younger brother.
“Ahmaud is not just a video to me, not just a hashtag,” she said. “He was my baby brother. And I’m proud to stand here today and say he was my brother.
“On Feb. 23 (the day Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed), by life changed forever. Something — someone — who was really important to me was taken away from me.”
Byrd said a fundraiser is being held to benefit Jasmine Arbery.
After the 8:46 tribute to Floyd, the marchers filed into the amphitheater to hear speeches. Byrd said she was proud of her community as she looked out at the multi-ethnic crowd that attended the rally.
“We are just beginning the conversation that will lead to healing in our community,” she said. “It’s beautiful to see this in Albany. Look around you: These are your neighbors, this is your family. We’re here today to say to the rest of our country that black lives do matter in Albany, Georgia.
“But we must remember, as long as we have millions of black people incarcerated in our country, we are not free. As long as we have people who do not have food to feed their families, we are not free. And if we can’t jog in our own neighborhoods without being murdered, we truly are not free.”