Demonstrators gathered outside the stallions statue on campus and marched around the Hays County Historic Courthouse Oct. 1 to protest racial injustice across the nation.

One of the protest’s main focuses was the lack of charges pressed against any Louisville police officers related to the death of Breonna Taylor, a Black 26-year-old emergency medical technician killed in her apartment by police officers as they executed a search warrant. A grand jury only indicted former officer Brett Hankison on three counts of wanton endangerment.

The protest was led and organized by three Texas State students, Najha Marshall, a microbiology senior, Diereck Montes, a business management junior and Tyreonta Norman, a political science sophomore.

At the start of the event, organizers handed out fliers calling for the defunding of the University Police Department, a sentiment supported by many of the other activists present.

The protest started with the organizers and a guest speaker delivering speeches from atop the base of the statue of the stallions. A guest speaker urged the crowd to vote and make their voices heard in spite of voter disenfranchisement, likening the closing of polling stations to poll taxes on minorities.

Montes led the march from the Quad with fellow organizers. He dismissed the $12 million settlement Taylor’s family received Sept. 15 from the city of Louisville, claiming justice has yet to be achieved as long as the police officers involved in Taylor’s death are arrested.

“We don’t want your money, we want those officers who were involved arrested,” Montes said to a chorus of applause from demonstrators. “It is sad that this country only cares about dollar signs before humanity.”

Jordan Haliburton, a sophomore and Black Lives Matter activist, says she attended the protest because she felt that it is more important to show support in person rather than only online.

“The black squares and 'This is America' Tik Toks were treated like they were just a cute thing to post,” Haliburton said. “This is my life. My life is not a quirky trend. It’s not a joke and it’s definitely not something to play around with, there’s people’s lives at stake here.”

As the demonstrators marched to the Hays County Historic Courthouse, several drivers passing by honked their horns and raised fists from inside their cars to show support for the march.

Tyler Vest, a psychology freshman, set aside time to attend the protest, saying racial injustice demanded attention and effort, no matter how small the contribution.

“I’ve just seen a lot of injustice and corruption in the police system and in the government in general for systemic racism,” Vest said. “I think it's important in any way that we can to get out and support the movement because everything helps.”

The protestors arrived at the courthouse, where tables with water, snacks, hand sanitizer, masks and voter registration forms awaited them. After settling on the courthouse lawn, the protestors listened to two fellow demonstrators sing renditions of “Glory” by John Legend and “Rise Up” by Andra Day.

Jada Jay, a theater teaching certification junior, sang “Glory” and spoke on why she decided to lend her voice to the march, stating all lives won't matter until Black lives matter.

“When I sing and when I march, I definitely think about Martin Luther King marching. I think about any other Black protest regarding Breonna Taylor or George Floyd," Jay said.

Tiera Johnson, an exercise and sports science senior who sang “Rise Up," viewed her contribution to the protest as a way to rekindle the fervor surrounding the Black Lives Matter movement following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 

“I just think it's smart to use my talent and use my gift to spread a message to people,” Johnson said. “I do think that [the protests] kind of already have died down, but I think it's important that we don't stop. Keep like lifting by voices saying things because that's the only way we're going to get heard.”

Quieraney Belvin, a junior and political science major, attended the protest because she believes it is important that Black students be present and set an example for the changes they want to see made.

“A lot of allies think they’re doing good by starting riots and destroying property, but that’s not what Black Lives Matter is about,” Belvin said. “Things like that give us a bad reputation. If you want to be a part of history and change come out and support us, go out and vote, and don’t forget to do your research if you really want to be an ally.”

Jerrod Jackson, a psychology junior, attended the protest for the first time, deciding criticism of police brutality merited action.

“There’s incidents on TV every day. I feel like a Black person gets killed at least once a week somewhere in this country, you don’t have to look very far,” Jackson said. “If I’m gonna sit by and watch it and criticize the police for not doing their job, I have to at least get up and march and voice my opinion.”

Makia Golliday, a Texas State senior, explained that the protests were a call to demand justice and did not come from a place of anger but instead frustration.

“We protest because we are hurt. We protest because we are sad that almost every other day, you hear about a Black person getting killed by the police," Golliday said. “I understand it can be hard to come out and protest, but you have to recognize the privileges that you have. If you’re able to, we need you to come here, because these protests are a call for unity. If we come together, we can overcome anything.”

The march ended with a visit to a Black Lives Matter mural on the side of a building on Guadalupe Street. The demonstrators took a knee for a moment of silence, then took pictures in front of the mural before they returned to the courthouse to listen to a few final words from the organizers before dispersing.

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