Fayette County

Marchers protest grand jury rulings, stop downtown traffic

#HandsUpKY marched in Lexington, Ky., to show solidarity with New York City and  Ferguson on Saturday December 6, 2014.   Photo by Mark Mahan
#HandsUpKY marched in Lexington, Ky., to show solidarity with New York City and Ferguson on Saturday December 6, 2014. Photo by Mark Mahan Herald-Leader

Deanna Valentine said she's afraid for her son and is saddened by the possible dangers he may face because of his skin color.

At 6 years old, Samuel has already been given talks on how he should act when confronted by police and told that his voice matters.

"It's really important that he knows that because of the color of his skin there's many different things that can happen to him versus other people," Valentine said.

Valentine and Samuel were near the front of a demonstration of more than 150 people Saturday night in downtown Lexington. The protesters, who stopped traffic in downtown Lexington, were marching against police brutality and the decisions made by grand juries in Ferguson, Mo., and New York not to indict police officers in connection with the deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.

The march started in the parking lot of Third Street Stuff and continued down Limestone Street, passing the federal and county courthouses, and stopping at the corner of Main Street. The event was promoted through social media by members of the Stop Mass Incarceration Network KY, a group dedicated to ending police brutality, mass incarceration and criminalization.

The diverse and nonviolent crowd marched with signs that read "Black Lives Matter," "No justice in an unjust system" and "All Lives Matter." Throughout the march there were chants of "I believe we will win!"

Several people told stories about their experiences with law enforcement and the judicial system through a bullhorn.

Greg Capillo, one of the organizers of the march, said it's important for citizens in Lexington "to show that we're watching and we're paying attention."

Protesters stopped traffic at the intersection of Main and Limestone Streets for four and half minutes to represent how long Michael Brown's body was left lying in the street. During that time, drivers honked their horns and turned around.

The group then moved to Main Street and Martin Luther King Boulevard, where the they knelt in the crosswalk and chanted, waved signs, pumped their fists and held their hands up for several minutes.

Lexington police officers allowed the group to shut down traffic as they rerouted vehicles through downtown streets.

Moving back to their starting point, protesters stopped for a third time at the intersection of Limestone and Short streets and continued their chants. There, Capillo stood in front of a vehicle that he said had hit another man. There were no reports of injuries.

"He needs to know that he's just going to have to wait," Capillo said.

Saturday's march is one of many taking place across the United States since a Staten Island grand jury decided Wednesday not to indict officer Daniel Pantaleo for the July 17 choking death of Garner and more than week after a St. Louis County grand jury decided not to indict Ferguson officer Darren Wilson, who shot and killed18-year-old Michael Brown Aug. 9.

The rally brought people from all over Kentucky.

Chanelle Helm traveled from Louisville to represent the Kentucky Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression and to show "solidarity."

"We can't even reverse the system or turn it over, without it," she said. "The revolution would be dead ... This affects everybody. Right now we're on #BlackLivesMatter but we can only say 'BlackLivesMatter' because we haven't mattered before."

Berea College student Quentin Savage, who also marched in Ferguson and was arrested, drew comparisons between the protesting there and Saturday's march in Lexington.

"There's a lot of diversity in both movements," he said. "There are people of different ethnicities and different backgrounds coming out ... which is really important, because we need to address a white audience if we're going to get this conversation started. ... It's beautiful we have this diversity. The flip side to that is there are some problems that are unique to the black identity that might get run over because we have so much diversity, but I think we're handling them well."

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments