Three rallies in San Marcos from June 4-6 brought hundreds of community members out to protest amid national outcry for black lives, systemic equality and against police brutality.
Demonstrators gathered in the lawn of San Marcos City Hall June 4, kneeling and sitting silently for an hour in remembrance of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black lives lost at the hands of police. After the silent protest, the group stood on the side of Hopkins Street shouting for the black lives no longer alive to speak.
The June 5 rally at the Hays County Historic Courthouse was organized by Erika Klodnicki, saying she felt like attending Austin protests and signing petitions wasn’t enough.
“I felt inclined to put together an event in my own community for people to speak their minds and hear and respect everyone’s views but also be able to change minds that need to be changed,” Klodnicki said.
The rally included hundreds of community members who marched around the courthouse, chanting and waving signs in support of black lives. The names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor were repeated often. Klodnicki reminded protest-goers that the event took place on what would have been Breonna Taylor’s 27th birthday.
After around two to three hours occupying the courthouse grounds and the nearby street corners, the group gathered for a moment of silence before dispersing.
The next day of rallying continued at the courthouse June 6, this time organized by nonprofit activist group Mano Amiga. This rally was a call for action from the Hays County Commissioners Court to reinvest from the $51 million dedicated to law enforcement to a public defenders office, a pretrial services office and the Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion program.
The gathering included an art station and tables for census and voter registration. A variety of speakers and singers performed throughout the evening. Guest speakers included the University of Texas Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusion Skyller Walkes, Hays County Judge Ruben Becerra, State Rep. Erin Zwiener and San Marcos City Councilmember Mark Rockeymoore.
The rally began with an introduction from master of ceremonies Marissa Fehler. She introduced Pastor Jonafa Banbury for group prayer; following was a speech from Dr. Walkes.
Becerra delivered a speech about his experiences as the highest elected official in Hays County seeing a lack of representation throughout department heads in the county.
“Our county has almost one thousand employees in Hays County, and we have zero minorities in department head positions,” Becerra said.
Becerra called for change in Hays County’s incarceration system, stating that where there is “great suffering” he sees jails make “great profit.”
“Jails are big profit centers,” Becerra said. “Outsourcing to private jails, charging family members $5 a minute to speak to their loved ones… that’s alive and well right here, right now,” Becerra said.
Following Becerra was Zwiener, who emphasized the ability to bring change in democracy goes beyond voting.
“Voting is important, but it is democracy on easy mode. It’s the bare minimum. The rest of it, democracy on hard mode is calling your representatives,” Zwiener said. “It’s showing up at demonstrations just like this. It is demanding accountability from the people who are in power. Don’t stop today, don’t let this be the last time you are engaged in this fight.”
Rockeymoore began his speech with a poem he wrote about being a black man in America.
Rockeymoore said, in his experiences, he has witnessed targeting for standing up for what he believes and implored the audience to continue fighting for a change.
“I remember what it’s like, the civil rights movements back in the day because my parents educated my sisters and I, and we know the history of our people here in the United States,” Rockeymoore said. “And what I’m looking at right here today is something new. These are the rarefied moments of a gathering when the first flush of excitement has passed people start to leave, and those still [fighting] are really devoted to this cause. It’s those who are willing to stick it out and do the work necessary to the very end that get the job done.”
Breana Miller of Texas State’s Pan African Action Committee attended the event. She said, as a black woman, she does not have the privilege of forgetting the senseless killings of black people—every situation has left a lasting impact on her life.
“I was 12 years old when Trayvon Martin was murdered, I was 15 when Tamir Rice was murdered, and I had just turned 16 when Sandra Bland [was found hanged in a Texas jail],” Miller said. “Of the many senseless brutalizations and murders committed against black bodies, those are the ones that I carry with me the most. For the past two weeks I have consumed any and everything about the protests, the police brutality going on around the world. I have watched this policing system show itself for what it truly is.”