ASHTABULA — A peaceful rally organized by area residents attracted hundreds of people to Lance Corp. Kevin Cornelius Memorial Park on Saturday afternoon where they heard a message of being comfortable; with being uncomfortable in the fight to stop police brutality and racism.
An emotional countdown of the nine minutes police kneeled on the neck of George Floyd before he died was emphasized on Saturday by Terrence Henton who detailed the anguish Floyd must have felt as he called for his mother during an incident in Minneapolis in late May.
"Embrace this moment. Every second is long," he said.
All the speakers have deep roots in Ashtabula and shared their love of the community and need for changes to make it a better place.
Henton shared his thoughts regarding the need for police department changes while policing minority neighborhoods and asked all those in attendance to be agents of change.
Henton emphasized the importance of youth driving change. He asked all those attending under the age of 29 to come to the front where he challenged them to decide what they can do to alleviate racism and police brutality in their spheres of influence.
Wisdom Davis, 23, organized the event and welcomed people to the park.
"I want to thank you all for coming ... This is going to be a peaceful day, a day for change ... This is a day to hold everyone to a higher standard," she said.
Davis also said the police were on hand to keep the rally safe.
Officers from several area departments provided water to those in attendance.
Patrick Haywood spoke on the importance of accountability and peaceful demonstration.
"We are Ashtabulans. We are not going to destroy our city," he said.
Haywood, who said he would like to some day become a city councilman, called for unity to fight police brutality and racism.
"This is not just a black thing. This can't be [just] a black thing," he said.
Autumn Clint shared her thoughts as a white woman.
"My name is Autumn Clint and I am a privileged white person. I am here to show support ... I am here to talked to other white people," she said.
Clint said fear has been laced into the day-to-day lives of black people in a way white people can't understand. She urged other white people to not stand idly by while other white people display racism.
"We must speak when we see injustice," she said.
Lorenz Scruggs recited an original poem entitled "A little black boy" detailing the effects of racism on the black community.
Olajuwon Cooper urged the community to make sure area children are being educated and said unity across racial lines is essential.
"I only stand here because black, hispanic and white people poured [their lives] into me," he said.
Cooper also said black people don't know police and police don't know black people, and that needs to change.
David Miller urged people to dream big and fight racism in every area of life.
"You cannot be what you cannot see," he said.
Miller said he didn't come to the rally for George Floyd but for those in attendance.
"I can't change what is happening in Minneapolis, but I can advocate for black businesses on Bridge Street," he said.
Henton also shared some practical plans to help change the city including more training for police, an increase in voting, increasing the penalties for police brutality and improving education.
"What can you do? What is the tangible thing you can do? ... When you can't find a road map, be one," Henton said.
In closing, candles were handed to participants in Floyd's memory and Davis thanked the participants for making the event peaceful.
"I had faith in my community ... This was one of the best days of my life," she said.