A group of more than 300 people marched through downtown Gallatin on Tuesday protesting racism, inequality and the killing of minorities by police across the United States.
The march, while often passionate and deeply emotional, remained nonviolent as it traveled from the Gallatin Public Library to the Gallatin Police Department and around the Sumner County Jail.
“We want liberty and justice for all,” organizer Caelin Fuqua told the crowd. “Until then, we will continue to feel this hurt, this neglect and this pain. We go unheard every day. We get looked over every day and then when it gets to this… we are called animals (and) thugs.
“We want to know that we are safe, and we are comfortable in our community.”
Outside the police department, officers and other city officials including Mayor Paige Brown and Police Chief Don Bandy heard from multiple speakers who shared concerns surrounding racial profiling and officer accountability.
The crowd also called for increased recruitment efforts and hiring of minority police officers along with the establishment of a community oversight board for law enforcement.
“I am the only one who looks like me in my neighborhood and I get stopped on my street because I look like I’m speeding,” Kristin Mejia Greene recounted through tears while speaking Tuesday. “I have been stopped on my street and asked why I am in this neighborhood… three doors away from my house. This cannot continue.”
Across the country, countless peaceful protests as well as rioting and looting have occurred in the week since George Floyd died after a police officer in Minneapolis, Minn. pinned him to the ground with a knee in his neck for nearly nine minutes as the unarmed and handcuffed black man said he could not breathe.
Derek Chauvin was arrested last week and charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Three other officers involved in the detention of Floyd have also been fired, and charged in connection with his death.
“I caught myself yelling at the screen to get off his neck,” Bandy said in a Facebook Live video Tuesday before the protest. “It was after the fact, so there was nothing I could do to change that, but it was so heart wrenching to watch that because you saw the life coming out of (him).
“That is not what you do in that situation.”
The Gallatin Police Department has “never taught” the type of restraint that was used on Floyd by police in Minneapolis, he added. Officers have also received training on how to properly deal with any similar situations locally.
While Brown said she is “so proud of the community that we are,” she admitted that “we are not perfect.” She encouraged residents to meet with her and/or the police chief to express any concerns they may have.
“We are a small city, but we are a diverse city,” Brown said. “We can always do better, but we have the opportunity to be a model to the rest of the county of what we can be. These times are another opportunity to continue to do that.”
Greene encouraged those who attended the protest to apply for law enforcement jobs, become active in local government and run for office.
She also asked for help from the white community, adding that minorities “cannot do this alone.”
“This is not the end,” Greene told the crowd. “We can’t be stomping on people’s property expecting them to change the rules, but they hear us and they see us.
“We should not have to do this again.”