By Katelyn Lusher
On Sunday, June 7th, approximately 4,000 Cincinnati residents gathered to protest the murder of George Floyd by Officer Derek Chauvin in Minneapolis. It was the 10th consecutive day of protests in Cincinnati and more Black Lives Matter protests are planned for the future. Cities around the world have joined in peaceful protest against police brutality, racism, and lack of accountability in law enforcement, including London, Paris, and Brussels. Although Black Lives Matter has existed as an organization since 2012, this may be the most widespread support the movement has gathered since its inception and many people who are not typically seen at BLM protests have been showing up to lend their support. At Sunday’s protest, adults were not the only protesters. Children and teens have been spotted at many protests around the country but are sometimes seen as controversial participants because they are minors and police have not spared children from tear gas and pepper spray attacks.
However, some parents feel differently. Katie Grant, a mother who came to the protest with her two daughters in Girl Scouts vests, stated that she feels it’s important for her kids to be present. “I just think there are lots of reasons why kids should be here,” Grant said. “Justice matters and we want to show our example because it’s part of history. I want my kids to be able to look back on this and say, ‘I was part of that’ because I think that in all the movements of the past there’s been a sense of pride for young people to say ‘my parents took me there.’ I just think this matters. It matters powerfully and I’ve always tried to teach my children to be anti- racist and I think this is part of that lesson.”
Another attendee, Marilyn Brown, came to the protest with her husband and expressed similar feelings about the importance of the Black Lives Matter protests. “I personally feel that this is a movement and not a moment,” Cooper said. “I felt like I can’t sit at home on my couch while something this huge is taking place. I’ve really felt a need to come down here and physically be a part. This is history making and I felt I needed to be a part of it because the changes will ultimately affect me. This is huge and we really appreciate the Caucasian support.” Brown’s belief that “this is a movement and not a moment” appears to resonate with many people across the country who have lent their support to Black Lives Matter by marching, donating, signing petitions, and toppling Confederate statues across the country. At the time of this writing, protests have occurred in all 50 states in hundreds of cities.
Despite these positive changes, there is still much work to be done in order to achieve real change. During the protest, many protesters held signs demanding the defunding of the police and chanted “Defund! Demilitarize!” in response to the large budgets allocated for police departments at the expense of other departments like public services. One protester, Mason Urban, held a sign that said “Defund the Police” on one side and “Invest in the Community” on the other, with the words “in” and “unity” highlighted. When I asked him about his sign, he stated, “The Cincinnati 2021 budget is coming out I think after July and it’s still atrociously skewed in terms of funding the police. They’re getting $150 million of the $400 million general fund that’s going into the city, which is way too much. It’s complete nonsense when public services aren’t even getting a tenth of that. This is something that is seriously wrong and something that should be addressed.”
Urban’s statements accurately reflect the approved 2020-2021 budget, which shows that the police budget currently sits at almost $153 million while the Public Services budget sits at $14.8 million and has seen a steady decrease in funding since 2018. The police department, meanwhile, saw a $5 million increase in funding between 2019 and 2020. Other departments like the Department of Economic Inclusion have a budget of less than a million dollars. All of this information is publicly available on the City of Cincinnati website.
The protests happening around the country are not just about George Floyd’s murder and police brutality. They are also about calling out silence and complacence in response to racial injustice. They are about calling out the divestment from our communities in favor of increasingly militarized police forces across the country. Divestment from our communities is exactly the reason why activists have to fight so hard for affordable housing and against gentrification in Cincinnati and across the country. It is the reason why the Affordable Housing Trust Fund is so essential. If this is truly to be a movement rather than a moment, people need to consistently fight for change for as long as it takes.
Photography By Kelcey Mucker