An estimated 1,500 march in support of Black Lives Matter on Big Beaver Road June 5.

An estimated 1,500 march in support of Black Lives Matter on Big Beaver Road June 5.

Photo by Deb Jacques


Peaceful crowd marches down Big Beaver to support Black Lives Matter

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published June 9, 2020

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TROY — A crowd estimated at 1,500 marched from Athens High School south on John R Road to Big Beaver Road to Troy City Hall, then back to Athens peacefully June 5 — 9 miles roundtrip, with temperatures hovering near 90 degrees.

Although the protest started from Athens High School, it was not a school-sponsored protest.

“This is not something we are organizing, but we do support the right to have their voices heard,” said Kerry Birmingham, the director of communications and strategic initiatives for the Troy School District.

Signs proclaimed, “Color is not a crime,” “System is broken — always been broken,” “End police brutality” and “I am my brother’s keeper.”

Troy resident and Athens Class of 2019 alumna Carri’Ana Smith organized the event to peacefully protest the death of George Floyd the evening of June 2.

Just before 8:30 p.m. June 5, the Troy Police Department tweeted, “THANK YOU: To the community and visitors, this was a positive and peaceful event for Troy. Shout out to the young lady that took the initiative to make a difference and organized a march for the whole community.”

“Friday’s event was without incident. It was completely peaceful,” Troy police Sgt. Meghan Lehman said via email June 8.

Before the walk, Smith, who plans to study engineering at Alabama A & M University, told C & G Newspapers that the purpose of the walk in Troy, which she said is a diverse community, was to bring “awareness of the struggle African Americans face, and protest against police brutality and racism.”

Avondale High School freshman Fiona Hamer, 14, marched to Troy City Hall for the protest after she heard about it from her older sister, Quincy. “People are dying unjustly,” she said.

Her mother, Jessica Hamer, also marched for “a lot of reasons — systematic injustice, it does need to stop. There is a huge divide that needs to be healed.”

Laila Potts, 16, an Athens High School student, said she “decided, as a black person, to speak out against social inequality for a better future.” She said she learned of the protest on Instagram.

“This is a historical moment, a turning point in history for equality,” said her mother, Iyessa Hamer, who also marched.

Smith addressed the crowd and started her speech by thanking everyone for coming out. “Where there is unity, there is strength.” She was interrupted numerous times by applause.

“Black people … my teens, my queens, my sisters, my brothers, you are loved, you are appreciated, you are beautiful, you are everything.

“We will not be silent. We will not be scared. We will be strong,” Smith said. “And fight for what is right.

“All my friends and supporters who are not of color,” she said, “we see you, we hear you, we thank you, we applaud you, for not just being out here, for educating yourself with the right information.”

She read the names of black people who died as victims of brutality, including George Floyd, Trayvon Martin, Breonna Taylor and Jordan Davis, and she said, “Say their names. … Know that all black people are not a threat. The system is broken. It has always been broken.”

Mayor Ethan Baker and wife Bethany Baker also marched.

“This is what Troy is,” he said to the crowd when Smith finished speaking, referring to the peaceful protesters congregated in Veterans Plaza at City Hall. “This is what Troy is about.”

Smith said she is planning a neighborhood barbecue to bring awareness to Juneteenth June 19. According to juneteenth.com, “Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States.”

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