Fayette County

150 march in downtown Lexington to call for unity after shootings

Freedom march held to protest police brutality

A freedom march was held downtown to raise awareness about national violence and police brutality across the nation, starting at courthouse plaza and ending in front of the mayor's office.
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A freedom march was held downtown to raise awareness about national violence and police brutality across the nation, starting at courthouse plaza and ending in front of the mayor's office.

About 150 people calling for unity in the wake of shootings in Louisiana, Minnesota and Dallas marched peacefully Saturday through downtown Lexington.

“Those were injustices and innocent blood was shed,” said march organizer Damon Davenport, pastor of Abundant Life Ministries International Church in Lexington. Davenport told the crowd that his hope is that “we all stand as brothers and sisters and we all walk in brotherly love.”

No problems with police were reported, police Chief Mark Barnard said. From start to finish, with the march and concluding rally at city government offices on Main Street, the event lasted an hour and 15 minutes.

During an interview before the march, Davenport said he has proposed that Lexington police “go on a truce for a 24-hour period and put their weapons down, and just try to handle matters in a different situation.

“I mean, I know that they have to protect and serve the citizens of Lexington, but that will show that Lexington is trying to take a stand for the things that have been going on,” Davenport said.

Lexington police Commander Brian Maynard confirmed that Davenport had requested that officers “have a truce for 24 hours, and that we put our weapons down and not be armed.”

“I advised him that I would not be able to do that, and that would be a request that he needed to do through the chief’s office,” Maynard said.

Maynard said he told Davenport “that would be an unrealistic request for us to do. It would be negligent on our part. We have to protect our officers as well as the public. For the citizens of Fayette County, that’s just not a realistic approach.”

Barnard said Davenport’s idea “is a pretty irresponsible proposal. We’re willing to listen to anything and speak to people, but I think the citizens of Fayette County have a right to public safety. I think they want us to be responsible with the authority they vest in us.”

During the march, black and white demonstrators started at the plaza outside Fayette District Court and went north along Limestone, turned right onto East Third at Doodles Restaurant, then right again on Martin Luther King to Main Street and city hall, where the crowd heard more speeches.

As the crowd walked south on Martin Luther King and chanted “Black Lives Matter!” a passerby turned and shouted: “What about the five police officers (in Dallas)? Don’t their lives matter?”

Isaiah Young, 35, of Lexington, who marched in the group, was asked how he would answer that man.

“Of course, we know their lives matter.” Young said. “I just don’t understand why people can’t focus on the peace of the situation, instead of trying to escalate it into something it shouldn’t be.”

Fellow marcher Benton Stegman, 27, of Kenton County, added: “I think being pro-Black Lives Matter does not mean you’re anti-police. And being pro-police does not mean you’re anti-Black Lives Matter. You can be both. It’s not a solitary one or the other. We both can come together to figure it out.”

On Saturday night, more than 100 people gathered for a candlelight vigil at Triangle Park downtown. That gathering appeared to be even more racially diverse than the march earlier in the day.

Denise Gray was among those who addressed the crowd on a grassy area by a cascading fountain. Gray, who is black, said all lives matter, “but it seems our lives don’t matter as much.”

“We are hurting. We are afraid,” Gray added. “When you see wrong happening in the community, we need you to say, ‘No, that’s wrong.’”

Also on Saturday, about 40 people attended a healing circle on the University of Kentucky campus to focus on the recent fatal shootings by police of two black men in Louisiana and Minnesota. Della Mosley, a UK doctoral student, said the event allowed students to grieve in a safe, protective space.

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