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Unity march in Smyrna for justice

Ben Mace * Delaware
ben.mace@doverpost.com
Smyrna/Clayton Sun-Times

Demonstrators at the unity march today, June 13, in Smyrna said they wanted to send a peaceful message.

"We're not against the police," said Orville Barnes, one of the organizers. "We're against racism and we're against bad police."

Barnes lives in Clayton and owns a business in Smyrna. He said he and the other organizers wanted to show that demonstrations can be held without looting and rioting.

"We're not against protests. People have a right to protest, but we wanted to demonstrate peacefully," he said.

Protests across the country and across the world have been held after the death of George Floyd, a black man, during an arrest in Minneapolis when a white police officer knelt on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd was face down on the street, being held by three other officers. The officer who knelt on Floyd's neck has been charged with murder.

Often the demonstrators have chanted or listed the names of numerous black men and women who have been killed or beaten by police in the past few years, or who have been shot as they walked or jogged through a white neighborhood.

"The divisions in our country need to be healed," said Pastor Kelvin Jenkins from Love Fellowship Tabernacle in Dover. "It's great to see so many people marching today, but we can't stop here. We need to get out and vote. It's important."

Jenkins thanked the police who helped with the march by blocking traffic so the demonstrators could walk along Glenwood Avenue (Route 300) from Carter Road to the Smyrna Police Station and back.

"We need the police in this community and this country," he said. "I know [Smyrna Police] Chief Torrie James and I know what he stands for and what his staff stands for. I want to thank everyone that this has been a peaceful march."

Jenkins led a prayer for the families of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and the families of all who have been affected by racism and violence.

"We pray for peace across this nation," he said.

One of the marchers, Stevie Rogers, said he was beaten by police when he lived in Philadelphia. Now 26, he lives in Smyrna.

"This area is a lot more peaceful, but everyone needs to be aware of what has been happening," Rogers said. "We need to stand up everywhere so it doesn't keep happening."