Editor’s Note: This post has been edited for clarity.
A large crowd of protesters gathered in Cape Girardeau on Sunday afternoon, organized by Black Lives Matter as part of the nationwide protests of police brutality in the wake of the killing of George Floyd.
As the protesters lined the corner of West End and Broadway, they received constant support from passing cars.
The event was highlighted with a soundtrack of upbeat hymns by a group from Saint James African Methodist Episcopal Church.
One singer from the church, Ramona Bailey, said she got involved in the protests to make the world safe for her three children.
“You tell them to do right and everything will be ok, but we are coming to find out now that it's more than that,” Bailey said. “You can't just be a good person anymore and do your best, it still might not be enough.”
Bailey said she hopes that these protests let Cape Girardeau know that police brutality will not be tolerated by the community.
“I would like in the next five years for people to look back and say ‘I can't believe it took us till 2020, but that's how it used to be, it’s not like that any more,’” Bailey said.
Amber Moyers, founder of Cape Pride and an organizer with Black Lives Matter, said the responsibility to speak out and demand change lies with everyone, especially those who benefit from racial privilege.
“It is up to us white folk to take responsibility for our privilege,” Moyers said. “It is up to us to stand with our brothers and sisters of color, we have to fix this. It is not the duty of the oppressed to fix the problems of society, it is the duty of the privileged.”
Moyers said she believes true change will come from individuals making changes within their own lives.
“It’s not enough to say that you are not racist, you have to actively understand your own prejudices,” Moyers said. “You have to understand where you are coming from. We have to change as individuals so we can all prosper as a society.”
Renita Green, Candidate for the third ward of Cape Girardeau City Council seat, said she was impressed with the turnout for the event and looks forward to seeing this community become a part of change.
“I'm not going to say that people are eating up to racism because they're not,” Green said. “What they are doing is becoming more comfortable being vocal, and becoming more uncomfortable in silence. As people become less afraid of the repercussions of vocalizing their opposition to oppression it'll be an uncomfortable time for a lot of people, but if we can sit with our discomfort and grow from it and we will become a healthier more united community.”
As the crowd grew, the music stopped and organizers offered an open mic to anyone who wanted to speak. Protestors told their stories to the crowd and spoke out against systemic racism in the police force and the country as a whole.
Tay Sain, a Southeast senior, said he was inspired by the large crowd of people who came out to support the Black Lives Matter movement and felt thankful to those who could not come but honked in support.
“I'm just inspired by how many people are out here standing up [for] what they know is right,” Sain said. “I have no problem being out here all day, because I know I need to stand up for my people and what I know is the right thing.”
Cape Girardeau citizen Daniel Duroseau said he was glad to see so many people united for the common good, and was proud to be a part of this community.
“It was a beautiful outing, it was peaceful,” Duroseau said. “Brothers and sisters getting together, it didn't matter what skin color they were or what nationality they were. Everybody came together and loved and supported each other and that's what it’s supposed to be. I'm just proud of Cape Girardeau, Missouri for what I'm seeing, I'm proud to live here now. I pray that people continue to grow with one another and understand one another.”
The Cape Girardeau Police Department turned back traffic and escorted protesters as they marched down Broadway from Capaha Park to the Mississippi River.
Once at the river the crowd heard a speech from Green who said “protests are the fun part," and that everyone had a responsibility to do the hard parts of calling out injustice at every opportunity.
The crowd knelt for a moment of silence and returned up Broadway to Capaha Park.