Organizers staged a protest against racism Tuesday in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers. A couple hundred demonstrators, primarily young people, remained peaceful and respectful as they interacted with Dallas police officers and with drivers and bikers on the road.
The march began near Flag Pole Hill and proceeded toward Boy Scout Hill on the banks of White Rock Lake. Participants then gathered under a shade tree to hear from organizers Sharon Iweajunwa and Emily Boyd, 2019 graduates of Lake Highlands High School.
“We have to stand up for ourselves and the people we love,” said Boyd, who is already planning another protest in the coming days. “If we protest and protest then stop, all our momentum will go away. It’s something we have to fight for.”
Boyd, who has attended demonstrations in downtown Dallas, wanted to create a march closer to home so that friends could participate. She was pleasantly surprised at the turnout and by the way marchers were treated by police from the nearby station.
“The downtown Dallas police officers initiated violence toward us during the protests, but we know the Lake Highlands police officers pretty well from our days at LHHS,” Boyd said. “They understand what we are trying to accomplish.”
After organizing the demonstration and publicizing it online, Boyd was warned that the march would devolve into a violent mess. The negativity made her more determined.
“We set out to prove them wrong,” she told me. “We wanted to get our point across without using violence.”
“Our goal was to speak out,” said Iweajunwa, “to start a conversation about things that have been swept under the rug. When I first arrived at the march, I admit I was terrified. Then I saw how many supporters were there, and it was heart-warming. We want to keep that momentum. We want people to come out from behind their screens. We want to see their faces. We want them to make their support active.”
Jessica Reyna, a 2018 LHHS grad, was determined to be among the marchers.
“There is so much injustice and discrimination, and I think it’s important for young voices to be heard and to let the people know we’re not going to be shot down. We’re not going to be silenced.”
Reyna, who was born in Mexico and moved to the U.S. with her parents when she was one year old, said she feels solidarity with her African American friends.
“I will never understand what the black community goes through, but I do get discriminated against,” said Reyna. “This protest is because Black Lives Matter. Many people of color experience discrimination, but it’s different for black lives.”
Rebeca Contreras, Reyna’s LHHS classmate, agreed.
“When I was at LHHS, I experienced the discrimination and micro-aggressions that many people of color experience, but right now it’s just amplified. People are starting to speak out now because it’s just not right. Those behaviors that start when you’re young just accumulate into something bigger. Since we were young, we’d be afraid to speak up for what we knew was right and what we knew was wrong.”
“Something has to change,” said Reyna. “I feel like George Floyd’s murder woke everyone up. He wasn’t the first and, unfortunately, he won’t be the last.”
The nonviolent nature of the protest was important to Reyna and Contreras.
“Some of these riots are starting peaceful and being escalated by, like, one person, and then they get out of hand,” explained Contreras. “I wanted to participate in a peaceful march because of my family. I’m glad it stayed peaceful.”
“I do believe the people who are angry deserve to be angry,” said Reyna. “There’s a difference between those here to protest and those here to loot. Buildings can be replaced, lives can’t.”
Diana Bornstein, a Lake Highlands mom who protested Tuesday, said she admired the young people marching beside her.
“I’m hoping these high school and college kids will want to do their civic duty and vote,” she said. “It’s as important now as it was in the 1960s.”
Demonstrator, Zach Hogue, who recently graduated from Bishop Lynch, also noted the 1960s connections.
“This is what the civil rights movement was to people in the 1960s. I believe this is the start of real change, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
Daniel Kalleb marched with his Bishop Lynch classmate.
“Real change can happen now because so many people are riled up. You’ve seen people from the ‘hoods of Dallas and the suburbs, all races and religions, coming in together, protesting for what is right. It’s really a war zone in our country. They’re going to burn down our cities until they get justice. I’m not saying that’s right, but that’s the opinion of lots of people. The killing [of George Floyd] ignited people of all races to be upset and understand what ‘white privilege’ is. People, especially young people, want to use their white privilege to make sure the voice of the unheard is heard.”
“I was raised by good parents who taught me every single person deserved dignity,” agreed Christopher Dunn, another Lynch grad. “It’s because our parents raised us right that we’re able to look at everyone and say, ‘Everyone’s equal here, and we have to go out and show with our actions that black lives matter.’”