Taylor Martin stood in front of a homemade collage of black men and women who died during a police interaction, looked out at the crowd in front of her and told them she was exhausted.
Tired, she said, of the negative portrayals of protesters in the media. Tired, she said, of police violence against black people.
“We have been bombed with tear gas, shot with rubber bullets. Children have been maced,” she yelled into a microphone. “We live in a society where black women are robbed of the joys of motherhood, fearing they’re raising a shooting target for these racist cops. We can’t allow this anymore!” Her call for reform was met with a swell of cheers and applause from the protesters.
Taylor, 17, is a student attending Carlson High School in Gibraltar, Michigan, about 25 miles south of Detroit. The former Detroit high school student is one of several metro Detroit youth who organized a peace march Saturday that attracted hundreds of protesters across age, race, and gender. They descended on the entrance of the Dequindre Cut in Detroit and headed toward William G. Milliken State Park while braving the day’s hot air.
The march was one of several protests and marches held Saturday, and marks the ninth straight day of demonstrations in metro Detroit. The death of George Floyd, a black man, who died during an arrest made by white Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, sparked national outrage.
The youth gathered to deliver one powerful message: that police violence and racism must finally end.
The solidarity and the gravity of this historical moment wasn’t lost on many of the teens who participated. For Joy James, who will be a senior at Cass Technical High School in Detroit next year, it was her first protest. She said she fears another tragedy could hit close to home.
“This will encourage people our age to also realize it’s not just older people outside protesting. It’s young people too. It’s not just grown people getting killed on TV. It’s people my age. It feels like it’s hitting home. Imagine my brother getting killed outside,” she said.
The protesters, most donning face masks, many sporting black and white Black Lives Matter shirts, marched at a steady pace. They waved signs above their heads, or held them closely across their hearts, as thunderous chants of “No justice, no peace!” and “Black Lives Matter” billowed along the mile-long journey. Tall, lush green trees provided shade and relief from the blazing sun overhead.
There is palpable frustration and anger over these deaths. Ahmaud Arbery was shot and killed while jogging near his Georgia neighborhood, and Breonna Taylor was shot by police while she was in bed in her Louisville home. Many of the youth who came out Saturday feel it is their responsibility to finally force change.
“I fight for justice and racial equality,” said Noora Aabed, a student who attends Henry Ford High School in Detroit.
“I am here to march for Black Lives Matter because we are being killed for no reason,” said sixth-grader Danay Tucker, who attends Foreign Language Immersion and Cultural Studies School in Detroit.
“My hope is that everybody can be peaceful and that everybody can change. Everybody’s coming here together to make peace because police did not make peace with us,” she said.
Her mother, Danita Tucker, fears for her daughter’s safety.
“I worry about my children every time they go out, especially now. It’s time to stop the police brutality that has plagued our community for so long,” she said.
Police officers watched as the marchers sat on the state park’s grassy lawn to hear speeches delivered by youth.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, who represents Detroit’s 13th district, made a surprise appearance at Saturday’s protest. She has called for the dismantling of police departments, and believes that this generation of youth would lead the forces of change.
“If this isn’t proof that we are on the right side of history, I don’t know what is,” she said.
The protest ended peacefully, and the event culminated with a moment of silence for those who died, with hundreds of protesters kneeling, fists raised in the air, before they slowly dispersed.