EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT) — For more than two weeks, protests around the nation have continued the call for social justice for all. In addition to George Floyd, protesters say they’re advocating for change after the deaths of hundreds of other unarmed American-Americans who died at the hands of law enforcement.
The group has shown their dedication to sparking change for eleven days in a row and say they have plans to take their message far beyond the sidewalks of Evansville.
Lydia DeJarnett and her wife, Marissa Rayborn, have become familiar faces and voices on the sidewalks of downtown Evansville. The two of them took part in a protest on May 30th but returned to the streets on May 31st because they say they didn’t want the issue to only be addressed one time. They streamed their peaceful protest on Facebook, garnering support from community has dozens of other people joined in day, after day.
“When people ride past and they see this sign they think ‘Man, that’s a lot of names but its not as many names as they’re making it out to seem,’ then ask me about this poster and I can explain to you there are more,” Rayborn says as she points to her poster with over 50 names written on it. “This is not even a fourth of 2015’s murders of unarmed African-American citizens, and that’s ridiculous,” said Rayborn.
Other Evansville natives like Alex Rollins and Kearia Hansford have also joined Rayborn and DeJarnett every day. Taking turns playing music and leading chants on the megaphones.
“I’m just out here trying to make a change. Nobody needs to know my story. I’ve been up here, down here, but it’s not about me. It’s about my friends and family and everybody else,” said Rollins.
Though their clothes, signs and numbers have changed over the eleven days, their message remains the same: they want justice.
“If you sitting at home and you’re behind your cellphone, that’s good but that isn’t good enough because if you aren’t being seen, you aren’t being heard,” said Hansford.
Whether you find them on the riverfront, or by the civic center, they say they’re in it for the long haul.
“The first four days, I had blisters on the bottom of my feet,” said Rollins.
“We need that change. So if we have to be out here every single day doing this, rain or snow, sleet you know, we’re willing to be out here and doing this because it’s a need,” said DeJarnett.
DeJarnett says she and her wife have been hit hard by COVID-19. Rayborn estimates her weekly income was cut in half. They say even with unemployment, money has been tight for them. Still, they say they moved finances around and put about $1,000 into providing water, snacks and other supplies so anyone from the community could have what they needed to join the movement.
Throughout it all, their protests have remained peaceful and open to all ages.
“I have all friends of all colors and I don’t want to see them get treated wrong. I’m a history nerd so I know all about history and the way that was and it’s still repeating itself so I feel like it needs to change,” said Rollins.
“We don’t want to riot, we just want to be heard. We don’t want Evansville to be like these bigger cities and burning their cities to the ground because they’re tired of the unjust,” said Rayborn.
The protesters say they are in the process of finalizing a meeting with Mayor Winnecke to address policies and law within the City of Evansville. Additionally, many of them are saving up to buy plane tickets to take their message to Washington, D.C. this August where people are expected to recreate the, “Great March on Washington,” also called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” The march in 1963 was the spot of the famous “I Have A Dream,” speech delivered by Martin Luther King, Jr.
(This story was originally published on June 10, 2020)