MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – A late arriving crowd pushed the number of marchers in downtown Morgantown to nearly 400. The Solidarity March included protesters calling on police to be held accountable for acts of violence against people of color.
The Morgantown march included bottled water, food, first aid kits and chant booklets so the marchers know the messages. Marchers also mixed an anti-tear gas solution made up of baking soda and water in spray bottles to be distributed among the marchers.
Organizer Samantha Norris says it’s important to address race relations and recognize where we can do better.
“The community really does care about our black brothers and sisters,”Norris said,”Skin color does not determine worth here, what determines your worth is the quality of human you are, if you’re a good human who cares about people, who works hard then you’re worthy. We care about justice.”
Norris also says part of the message is to get young people to go to the polls this year, if not in the primary in November.
“You have to vote, you have to make it known,”Norris said,”Because all of this won’t mean anything if we don’t go to the polls and vote too, especially young people. Young people have a history of not voting and we really need that to change.”
Former Mountaineer basketball player John Flowers attended the march to show his support.
“I’ve never dealt with a lot of racism personally, but it still exists,”Flowers said,”I think the rally today was to show it exists and to get people heard, it’s good for the community.”
Marcher Darian Drake says the minority community cannot enjoy basic freedoms until race issues are honestly faced by leaders.
“Until Black and brown people can jog, go to the corner store and fall asleep in their own bed and not be killed it’s very much a race problem,” Drake said.
Drake says race local race issues are largely below the surface, but are very disturbing to those that deal with them.
“There might not be killings in the street, but there have been,”Drake said,”It’s micro, when you go down the street and someone says a racial slur to you, or you’re in a classroom where you can’t feel comfortable as a person of color because of the conversations going on.”
Morgantown police issued a statement that said in part,”We understand and support our citizens’ right to peacefully protest. This is something that the Morgantown Police Department takes very seriously, and we will always strive to protect the rights of everyone.”
According to the statement,”Because of the strict adherence to policy, procedure and law, the department conducts annual training for all personnel, which was recently completed. The annual training includes de-escalation and anti-bias training. Further, every use of force is reviewed by supervisory officers, staff officers and subject matter experts. Each use of force is independently evaluated to ensure that it complies with policy, training, and law.”