ST. GEORGE — Just before twilight, a group of 12 people gathered Monday on the corner of St. George Boulevard and Main Street. They held flags and signs that said “Black Lives Matter,” but the demonstrators were of various ethnicities.
Activist Diamond Sluka said she felt the need to demonstrate Monday because it was Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
“Martin fought for equality and freedom for his people,” Sluka said. “But we can’t have that until we have healing; we can’t have healing until we address the racism in this country.”
Just then, a man driving a Dodge pickup shouted, “All lives matter,” as he drove west on St. George Blvd., to which one of the demonstrators responded, “Yes, they do.”
One man who stood with the demonstrators wore desert camouflage and had an assault rifle slung over his shoulder. He looked as though he was at the wrong demonstration, but he said he was there to protect the demonstrators.
“The average Joe thinks BLM is communist, but that’s a lot of bull,” he said. “They’re fighting against systemic racism, as we all should be. We don’t treat black communities with the same respect as we treat white communities. Nothing Dr. King fought for has been solved. It’s sad.”
Though he declined to identify himself, he did say he was a veteran of the United States Marine Corps.
“They called King an inciter, but he was the one who got assassinated,” he said.
Some drivers honked in support of demonstrators, while others shouted their disapproval. Others hurled insults, trying to provoke a response. But demonstrators kept their cool.
“The irony is, Martin was supposed to be anti-violence,” said Sluka’s boyfriend Bisyn Abrams. “He was assassinated for the same thing we stand for.”
“We’re like everybody else,” Sluka added. “We just want to take care of our families, and give back to the community. We also want black people to be able to be themselves without fear of racism or becoming victims of violence.”
Demonstrators looked up as a man driving a dark gray Toyota Forerunner began shouting.
“Get the (obscenity) out of our neighborhood,” shouted the driver of the Forerunner, flashing his middle finger at the demonstrators. “There’s more of us than you!”
An unmarked police vehicle pulled up to the curb, causing the demonstrators to wonder whether the police were there to break up the demonstration or to go after the driver of the gray Forerunner.
The policeman turned on his lights and paused for a moment. Then he flipped a U-turn and followed after the Forerunner.
As the sun set, the demonstrators went home. The last two people standing on the corner were Sumer Jones and James Hodges.
Hodges stands on the corner every Monday, holding a sign that says, simply, “Love.” Today, he decided to step aside for the BLM demonstration.
“There’s so much hate, tension and anger, said Hodges, founder of the nonprofit justlovepeople.org. “We all want freedom, love, peace. If we just listen to one another, maybe we could be more peaceful.”
Jones organized the demonstration because she felt it was important to show that BLM demonstrations are peaceful.
“Since Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, it’s really important that we show we’re about peace and love,” Jones said. “It’s also important to show that, especially on this day, you can’t say that all lives matter until black lives matter.”
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