Elder Justyn Payne stood in front of a silent crowd gathered to protest at the Hays County Historic Courthouse, relaying a powerful message to a fed-up community devastated by the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. 

“[Floyd and Taylor] wanted to breathe; they wanted to live. And they can’t talk anymore. It’s our turn to speak out,” Payne said.

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Justyn Payne delivers a speech during a protest for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, Friday, May 29, 2020, at the Hays County Historic Courthouse in San Marcos. (Jaden Edison)

The May 29 protest, originally an idea by Texas State student Diereck Montes, came days after a video surfaced of ex-Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin placing his knee on Floyd’s neck until he was unconscious; Floyd later died at a hospital. Taylor was shot and killed March 13 at her home in Louisville after police entered her home for a narcotics investigation.

The San Marcos community—student activists, families, city officials and church leaders—arrived with signs and messages advocating for black lives—and against police brutality and white privilege. The protest began with several speakers expressing their frustrations, including Payne and Montes.

The reason why I organized this is because it [felt] close to home,” Montes said. “George Floyd was not only a citizen but an activist from my neighborhood in [Houston] and attended Jack Yates High School. I just felt like, for my integrity and [sanity], this is something that I needed to do.”

Montes said, as an Afro-Latino, he realizes Floyd and Taylor could have been him. He said he felt it was his duty to be a part of change and take part in something impactful for the community.

“[Black people] have to [set an example for] other people,” Montes said. “What I see is us uniting [the community] even more—us continuing [to fight] together.”

After the speeches concluded, the group began marching toward San Marcos City Hall. Along the way, the march captured the attention of people in passing cars, honking and yelling in support. Tyreonta Norman, one of the Texas State students who led the protest and march, said her and others taking action had everything to do with the disproportionate targeting of black people by police. 

This has been an issue going on for years and years, way before we even saw it on television,” Norman said. “It’s really, really terrible that this is happening to people’s brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles…[police violence] doesn’t discriminate [in the black community]. The only thing that matters is that you’re black.”

Ariel and Amber Corral, two sisters that took part in the protest, said witnessing people rally in support of black people made them personally feel like their voices are being heard. 

“It really gives us a [feeling] of unity, [seeing] everybody out here that actually [care] and are actually being allies to [black people],” they said. “[Seeing] those who are walking in the protest and [people showing support in cars passing by] is moving.” 

After returning to the courthouse, the community gathered to hear closing remarks, Texas State student Tiera Johnson singing “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and a collective prayer. 

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(Left to right) Diereck Montes, Ayo Ade and Micah Traylor bow their heads in prayer, Friday, May 29, 2020, at the Hays County Historic Courthouse. The three led a protest for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. (Jaden Edison)

Montes said as long as black people are on the receiving end of injustice, the community will not stop speaking out and fighting for the justice and treatment they seek.

“I’m very proud that people actually came out and supported,” Montes said. “[I’m proud] that everyone kept their demeanor and their heads focused on the goals that we have.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Justyn Payne’s first name. It has since been corrected; we deeply apologize for this error. Further, we changed distinctions of “African American” in the story to “black”. 

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