Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Freddie Gray:Black Lives Matter March in NWA by Tony E. Boyd

There was a non-violent protest in Fayetteville Saturday, May 2nd in recognition of the death of Baltimore Freddie Gray and the whole Black Lives Matter movement. If you were unaware, it was understandable. 

The protest was pulled together in a few small days and the word didn’t have time to spread as well as it could have.  Not to mention on the day itself, several other events were going on around town like the opening of the Razorback Greenway, the Farmers Market (great weather for it too), etc.  

The group that did show up was small in number (approximately 35-40 people) but large in determination and dedication to having their message heard. With police escort and protest marshals in tow, the intrepid group took to the streets with their protest signs and rhythmic chants about peaceful protests and support for Freddie Gray. 

The group walked at a brisk pace along the legal observer, Alison Carter and myself mustered the energy to keep up. The reaction of bystanders as the marchers passed through ranged from surprise to dismay to amusement to indifference to supportive. Some blew horns as they drove by. Some threw the thumbs up sign. Some clapped and waved. Others just stared. I recall not seeing any outright opposition to the march or its marchers. 

The worst thing I perceived was dismissive indifference. What’s all this, oh its about that, doesn’t affect me kind of looks.  The march took us on a little over 3 mile trek from the front lawn of Old Main, down Dickson street, up Block street past the Farmer's Market, down Mountain St. past the Federal Building, to the intersection of College and Dickson, ending at the parking lot of St. Paul's Episcopal Church (at the corner of College and Dickson, across from the new courthouse).  

There we were treated to inspiring speeches, impassioned poetry and calls to action. Speakers included Professor Pearle Dowe, political science professor from the University of Arkansas, Daniel McFarland, outgoing president of the Associated Student Government at the U of A, Jakym Battle, president of the UA chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers, poet Juana Washington, along with students, Dara Gaines, Jessi Hicks, & Sussana Oad. Hicks and Oad were the organizers of this event.

 After which, a Die-In was staged for 109 seconds, to recognize the 109 lives lost by police brutality.  A Die-In is where protesters lie motionless on the ground in simulation of and solidarity with past victims of wrongful death at the hands of the police.

 It was a poignant moment and a good exclamation point to the message the protesters were trying to get across. At the conclusion of the Die-In, the intrepid group made their way back to where they began to conclude this particular effort of social consciousness about the need for better legal and social justice. Hopefully, one day, the judicial system and its corruptions would be analyzed and disputed. 

For more pictures, check out YouTube Video below:


From Contributing Author/Photographer Tony Boyd:

“On a side note, I spoke with Alison Carter who walked with the group as a volunteer legal observer. She expressed a desire to grow that type of volunteerism in Northwest Arkansas. Alison belongs to the UA Student Chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild (nlg.org). The Guild believes in human rights over property rights. That’s one of the reason their members volunteer to be legal observers at marches and rallies to make sure the protesters’ legal rights are observed by the police and  to be witnesses if they do not. You don’t have to be a lawyer or law student to become a legal observer.  They offer classes. If you are interested in becoming a legal observer, you can contact James Depper at jdepper@uark.edu .

I made to the decision to present the images I took in Black and White because in a way it’s a throwback to the unrest and racial tensions of the turbulent sixties. By eliminating the color, I feel it also removes some of the visual distractions from the message of the march”.