MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - A new generation of activists walked up Dexter Avenue in downtown Montgomery Wednesday to highlight inequality and protest police brutality. They chanted and held signs for hours in the hot sun. A message for change echoed by people of all walks of life.
“We have to be consciously aware of the oppression African Americans face, while we are not in direct chains anymore we still face oppression in all areas of our life,” said Jeremy Moore, ASU student and SGA Treasurer.
Moore came to raise awareness that systemic racism still exists today, especially in the criminal justice system.
“As a person of color, anytime an officer gets out of their car the first thing that goes through my head should not be ‘what will happen’,” he said. “I am always trying to do the right thing so the officer doesn’t feel threatened by me.”
The undercurrent of fear surrounding police brutality is something Finsen Yu lives with every day, an anxiety now heightened by the death of George Floyd. Yu held a white poster during the protest with large scrawling print stating, ‘Am I next?’
“I’m afraid of being taken away from my girlfriend, my loved ones, my family, my cousins,” said Yu. “I have never hurt anyone, for someone to profile me in such a way scares me.”
Floyd's death impacted everyone at the protest in a different way. Teacher Chelsea Neely said she came to support her students and friends.
“I couldn’t not get involved at this point,” Neely said as she wiped away a tear. “I think about my students and their families. I teach pre-K and they are just so sweet. If anything like this ever happened to one of my kids I couldn’t live with it.”
Protesters called for police departments to offer tolerance training and get to know the communities they cover, something some are already seeing here in Montgomery.
“It’s gotten better over the last year,” explained Moore. “When people know the officers protecting them in their neighborhood they feel a lot safer. I know some of the officers I see now, I feel safer, it’s a personal relationship and that helps what we are battling.”
Wednesday Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed confirmed he would be meeting with community leaders to discuss the creation of a citizen review board. It's something that's been recommended by residents as an avenue to weigh in on policing and city violence.
“The change needs to happen now,” said Yu.
Officers of the Montgomery Police Department provided security for the peaceful protest and heard their concerns.