This afternoon, around 50 members of the community stood and knelt in front of the Terrebonne Parish Courthouse in Downtown Houma for a peaceful Black Lives Matter demonstration to protest racial injustices.
“I wanted to be a part of a protest and use my voice to speak out against all of the injustices that happen across our country,” said Wanda Triggs, a Houma native who helped lead the protest.
“For far too long we’ve been seeing black Americans be unjustly killed by the police,” said Connor Bonvillian, a Chauvin native who came up with the idea to organize a demonstration in Houma. “And time and time again, it happens and people share. But it’s like nothing gets done.”
One of the latest incidents that has caused protests across the country and world is the death of George Floyd, an African American man who can be seen and heard on video repeatedly saying he couldn’t breathe — while being handcuffed — as Minneapolis Police Department officer Derek Chauvin kneels on his neck for approximately nine minutes. Floyd subsequently died.
“I cried,” shared Taylor Holliday, who joined forces with Bonvillian to coordinate the event. “I have a black dad. I have black grandparents. I have three younger black siblings. I was sitting next to my black boyfriend when I watched a black man get killed on camera for nothing.”
“To see a black man get kneeled on like an animal — and that’s not even how you’re supposed to treat an animal — it was heartbreaking,” she continued.
Triggs, who has two sons, said the video was painful for her to watch.
Bonvillian said he couldn’t even watch the full video. “I’ve seen videos of previous police killings, but I’ve heard the details of it and heard the sound bites of it and have seen like small clips of it. I can hear him, and it breaks my heart. I can’t bring myself to watch the full video.”
In unison with other protests from around the world, participants in this afternoon’s demonstration knelt down for approximately nine minutes. “That was a long nine minutes. And that’s the amount of time that that cop was kneeling on his neck. That’s all I could think about the entire time,” Bonvillian shared.
Although there was some time and location changes, Triggs, Holliday and Bonvillian were all happy with the turnout.
“When I looked out there, I would venture to say they had as many or more whites at the rally. And I love that because we are a community,” Triggs said. “I’m pleased that everybody is outraged with the dehumanization. We need the support of both races to help things improve.”
The Black Lives Matter movement started in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman, who shot and killed African American teenager Trayvon Martin, who was unarmed. The movement gets met with opposition with the saying “All lives matter.” But today’s protesters explained why that shouldn’t be the case.
“All lives don’t matter until black lives matter. It’s not that hard of a concept to understand,” Bonvillian said. “As white people, we should use our privilege to recognize that our brothers and sisters are hurting instead of just staying in our comfort zone and not speaking out.”
“Say we are neighbors. My house catches on fire and the firefighters come to my house to take out the fire. But you get upset: ‘Why aren’t the firefighters spraying my house?’ It’s because your house isn’t on fire,” Holliday explained.
She continued: “White lives do matter, but the thing is, black lives don’t. Black lives are the ones that are being disproportionately taken. Black lives are the ones that are in danger. Us saying black lives matter does not mean that white lives do not matter. White lives matter. Asian lives matter; everybody lives matters. But right now, we need to fix black lives.”
Triggs hopes that a change can happen soon, especially for her two sons, one of whom has Down syndrome and autism. “I read an article this morning when I got to work about a young man who was deaf — even though he was white — but he was deaf and was trying to sign and the policeman took that for something else and shot him. So I often wonder because of his skin color and his disability that he won’t be given a chance to explain himself or something and just be shot.”
Holliday said she is also planning a Juneteenth (also known as Freedom Day) celebration, which commemorates June 19, 1865 — the day enslaved African Americans were notified they were liberated from the Confederate States of America. She said anyone wanting to donate or participate in the celebration can call her at 225 – 937 – 6891.
“I’m not saying black people need to be on top — because a lot of people get that misconstrued,” she added about the Black Lives Matter movement. “What I’m saying is we just want the same opportunities as the next person with lighter skin. We want to be equal.”
Photos by Mary Ditch