Gallery: Community rallies in Houma for Change
Yesterday afternoon in Houma, around 130 people marched in solidarity to protest against police brutality and systemic racism, calling for a change in society.
After gathering at the Terrebonne High School stadium parking lot, protesters walked down W. Main Street, displaying signs and shouting “not my son, not your son,” “no justice, no peace, no racist police,” and “black lives matter,” among other chants.
Event organizers, Connor Bonvillian and Wanda Triggs led the march to the Terrebonne Parish Courthouse. “I was comforted that the people turned out in a good number and seemed motivated,” Triggs said.
Terrebonne Parish Sheriff-elect Tim Soignet, Houma Police Chief Dana Coleman and Terrebonne Parish NAACP President Jerome Boykin also participated in the protest.
“It meant a lot to me to march today and to march with others from the community. It is good to see the community as a whole participate in this march today: the fact that you had black and white who participated,” Boykin said, “and also the fact that you had two of the top law enforcement officers in this parish who also participated in this march.”
It was historic that Coleman and Soignet marched alongside the community, Boykin said, as he couldn’t recall a time that happened in Terrebonne Parish before. “I believe this movement that you have in this country now, since the death of George Floyd, is the new Civil Rights movement,” he continued.
Boykin said he’s not for banning any law enforcement agency, but instead working with the departments to make them better for everyone.
“If you look at what occurred in Minnesota [death of George Floyd], that has sparked a movement; that movement is going to hold myself, as well as Sheriff Soignet accountable,” Coleman said. “I support this community 110 percent. This is going to open up doors of transparency and not only protests but conversations.”
Soignet added: “When I raise my hand to support and defend the constitution, it’s every bit of it…When I take my oath on July 1, I swear an oath to that constitution which means the people of Terrebonne Parish, American people; that’s their right. And I have to protect and defend that…So for me to walk with those men and women, that’s their constitutional right, and I have to show that I’m in support of their cause so they can get their message out.”
Bonvillian spoke to the crowd at the courthouse rally, saying systemic racism permeates virtually every area of society, “including but not limited to: the police departments, the criminal justice system, our elected officials, the presidency,” he continued, “and yes — ourselves.”
He also discussed those on social media who call the issues facing the Black Community “liberal propaganda.” “But the fact will remain,” Bonvillian said, “that black people are disproportionately affected by police brutality compared to white people.”
Bonvillian also touched on other aspects of the criminal justice system, including the need to abolish private prison systems and address the 13th Amendment, which prohibits slavery and involuntary servitude — except as punishment for a crime. He also called for the end of cash bail, “which keeps people in jail for no other reason than that they can’t afford to pay bail,” he said.
“We need to transition to a society that puts people over profit, and Louisiana should take initiative,” he continued. “…We — as a community — are stronger together and we can make real change if we stand up and demand it…There’s so much work to be done, but we can do it. So let’s stand together, united as we work to bring peace, prosperity and justice for all.”
Soignet, Coleman, Boykin, Triggs and council members Carl “Carlee” Harding and John Navy were among some others who talked to the crowd from the courthouse steps.
“I think everyone just opened up their heart, and I felt it was genuine,” Triggs said after the event. “I felt like the breeze was symbolic of everything that was going on out here, just kind of free flowing. It was good peaceful, positive energy.”
The speeches not only highlighted the issues but also how to fix them, Triggs added.
Navy, under his organization Terrebonne for Unity, set up voter registration tables at the stadium parking lot and Courthouse Square. “Dr. King believed in nonviolent protest and march; that’s great. But at the end of the day, why are you protesting; what kind of change can you expect to make,” Navy said.
“The Selma March was about the right to vote, and that’s why we have to continue to educate people to go and vote,” he continued. “Exercise your right to vote to make real change.”