Taking a stand

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Protesters held a peaceful protest march through Pendleton for racial justice on Saturday, joining similar protests around the world in the aftermath of George Floyd's death in Minneapolis. Tom Russo | The Times-Post

PENDLETON —”Thank you, and THANK YOU!”

Joseph Dixon of Anderson said these words to a woman Saturday morning at a Black Lives Matter protest march in Pendleton.

The first thank you was for letting him take her photo; the second was for her showing up to support the event.

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“This is just wonderful to see, and I just wanted to thank her for that,” said Dixon, 48, who is black and described the event as incredible.

About 200 people participated in the event, which was billed as a “peaceful protest” and a chance to “stand for justice.”

The protest was one of a long and growing list of such events going on nation- and worldwide, sparked by the death of George Floyd, the unarmed black man who died May 25 after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes.

Local march participants gathered at Pendleton Elementary School-Intermediate, where organizer Lacey Barnett — who less than a week previously graduated from Pendleton Heights High School — spoke briefly about why they were there.

“Thanks for coming. I know it means a lot to a lot of people in this community,” Barnett told the crowd. “And I’m very impressed by this turnout, honestly. Like, you all should be proud of yourselves for speaking out and using your voice when it comes to such an important matter. So thank you all so for coming out and speaking your voice and using it for good.

“Please remember that this is not a violent protest. This is a peaceful march. This is for us to use our voices to lift up those who need that help and need that voice and that platform.”

After an eight-minute-and-46-second period of silence, marking the same length of time Chauvin’s knee was on Floyd’s neck, the crowd walked up East Street, west into downtown Pendleton and back again.

People carried homemade signs with phrases such as “Enough is enough — Black Lives Matter,” “All lives can’t matter until Black Lives Matter” and “We’re not trying to start a race war — we’re trying to end one.”

At one point, the crowd walked to within a block of a historic marker in Falls Park that tells how three abolitionists, including Frederick Douglass, were mobbed in 1843 while in Pendleton giving antislavery speeches. The abolitionists were carried to safety by local supporters, the marker states.

Saturday’s marchers received honks of support and the occasional cheer from a porch as they made there way through town, even as one woman yelled at them from a second story window along State Street and a man jeered at them from a slow-rolling van.

Diane Herzog, a former resident of Pendleton who still lives nearby, said she came to the rally because the message of the moment bears repeating.

“I’m here because black lives matter, and I don’t think we can say it often enough or strongly enough,” she said. “And I think we’ve got to keep showing up and keep saying it.”

Brian Butler of Pendleton attended with his wife and 12-year-old son to support the protest and the fight against what he said is the unequal treatment of black people in America.

Melayna Armstrong of Pendleton said she thought it was important to show in a peaceful way that violence directed at black community cannot be allowed to go on.

Paige Perkins of Pendleton said “it’s time for a change — it’s time to recognize the injustices of our brothers and sisters.”

Marissa Tanner, 28, who lives in Lawrence and teaches history at Anderson High School, said she was there in part to support her students, many of whom are black, and to add her voice to a battle that has been waged for far too long.

“This has been going on since before I was born,” she said. “I keep teaching the same lessons, and it keeps popping up as the same thing.”

She sees reason for hope, though, she said.

“People are seeing it (racism) in the light for what it is,” she said.

That light is what drew Dixon to a walk in Pendleton on Saturday morning.

“Well, honestly,” he said, answering the question why he came out, “because this is one of the things that it will take to put a dent in what is the ugly sin of racism.”