A diverse gathering of several hundred people came together June 7 in Anna in a show of unity for the community and against systemic racism.
They endured temperatures well over 90 degrees to march from Sue Evelyn Rattan Elementary School to Walmart at Anna Town Center.
The event was organized by Terry Mitchell, a recent Anna High School graduate. He was compelled to take action after witnessing the nation's response to the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.
With the help of some friends, his father and the Anna Police Department, the march soon became something much larger than Mitchell expected.
In an address to the crowd, he said the killing of Floyd on May 25 was something that should never happen again. He called upon attendees to let it serve as their call to action.
“I’m tired of watching people who look like me be tried and prosecuted in these streets,” he said. “Understand that tragedy will strike, but we must strike back.”
Mitchell added that ignorance of the majority is bliss while ignorance for the minority is destruction. If people continue to ignore the systematic racism across the nation and in their own back yards, nothing will ever change.
Anna Mayor Nate Pike, City Manager Jim Proce and representatives from the city staff and city council also participated in the rally.
Pike addressed the crowd briefly. He emphasized the importance of community and said seeing the impressive turnout lead by young people brought tears to his eyes. He also promised to work with council to make sure the city would continue to address these difficult challenges.
“I’ve had nothing to do with planning this event other than to reach out to these individuals and tell them that I stand with them and I want to be a part of this,” he said.
Before the March began, Anna Police Chief Jeff Caponera also expressed his support for protesters and promised that police would not be donning riot gear during the event.
Along the 1.5-mile route, volunteers handed out water for marchers.
Among them were the Boysen family.
It was the first time they had been involved with a protest of any kind. Parents Tyler and Kaylee wanted to show their support. However, they weren’t sure how their kids, 9-year-old Beckham and 12-year-old Capri, would handle the long march.
Over the previous week, the parents did their best to teach the children about what had been going on while also explaining as best they could the history of racism in America.
“This was kind of the culmination to let them be a part of this as well,” Tyler Boysen said.
Throughout the march, protesters led songs and chants in support of Black Lives Matter and in remembrance of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and other people of color who were killed by racist acts and police misconduct.
They were passionate, unified and peaceful.
Anthony Mitchell said he was extremely proud that his son helped put together such a powerful event.
“I’m very proud of him to have the conscious and the intestinal fortitude to not want to sit down and stay silent, but to rise up and have his voice heard so he can invoke change - positive change,” he said. “We’re seeing a paradigm shift where he can live in a community where he can fly and not fear, so I’m extremely proud.”