SUWANEE — “I personally believe change needs to be made,” declared Officer C. Mathis as Suwanee Town Center rumbled with Black Lives Matter chants.
Led by a junior at Georgia State University and a North Gwinnett High School alumna, Rin Cook took it upon herself to hold a protest on June 5, 2020, in Suwanee to bring light to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I had no intention of planning a demonstration,” she claimed. “But I wasn’t going to wait around for someone else to solve the world’s problems for me.”
Following the death of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and the countless other black individuals that have lost their lives due to police brutality, the nation’s citizens took to the streets as they began rallying against a system it believes has become corrupt.
Suwanee residents could not sit calm as they came together to peacefully rally against the atrocities.
June 5 is the birthday of Breonna Taylor, a frontline EMT worker who lost her life as well. Cook and the approximate 3,000 other Suwanee protesters murmured a lingering ‘Happy Birthday’ to Taylor.
“Our chains were shifted to handcuffs,” said Lauryn Johnson as she began the event acknowledging the lives lost due to racism.
“Gather all of your friends in your local ice cream shop,” Kimberly Jones proposes. “If even 40 people come with a notepad and are assigned one job to bring forth change, imagine all we can do.”
As residents chanted in support, messages of solidarity and confidence were spoken by many local leaders.
“When we are not on the table, we are on the menu,” said candidate for Georgia’s 7th District, Nabilah Islam as she spoke about the importance of voting in local elections.
“You make our democracy work,” said Matielyn Jones, a candidate running for Georgia State Senate in District 45. Her words were directed to the young people that had taken to the streets.
Following the speakers, Cook asked for the crowd to reflect in a 9 minute moment of silence- the same amount of time in which one Minneapolis police officer kneeled on George Floyd’s neck ultimately killing him.
In those nine minutes, despite having the entire park overflowing with protesters, the park was silent. Muffled sobs and silent prayers filled the air.
Sydney Jackson continued the event by singing “Amazing Grace.”
A Suwanee businessman spoke about the current events as he said, “I don’t have much advice or wisdom to impart like the rest of our speakers. But how do I tell my son that though I can afford a hoodie, he cannot?”
The floor was then opened to protesters who wished to share a few words. Many students spoke out about the injustices they have grown up witnessing.
“I am seventeen years old, and I am scared. I am terrified,” a student tearfully said.
A woman who wishes to remain anonymous commented on the matter as well.
“I moved here from India 22 years ago in hopes of giving my children a better life, but I still worry when my children go out because of what society may think of them as,” she said.
“Racism is taught, hate is taught. We have to teach our children to love and respect one another from home,” the lady said.
Once speeches concluded, protesters took to the outskirts of the park and chanted their message to drivers and onlookers of the city.
Many cars, including ambulance trucks, honked in support as they passed Lawrenceville-Suwanee road.
Amongst the thousands of protesters was the Suwanee Police Department who was seen passing out donuts to attendees. Though the protesters were hesitant, many were seen taking pictures with the officers as they held their own signs of solidarity.
Officer C. Mathis and Sergeant Nick Jones commented when asked about their reaction to the community coming together. “If we are able to sit down and have more conversation, we can have more progress,” said Sergeant Jones.
The entire Suwanee City Council attended in unity with its citizens as they fist-bumped and embraced many citizens as they expressed their concerns.
“If we steward this well, we will look back on this moment in our history as sacred and significant; a catalyst for meaningful and lasting change and for greater unity,” said Councilwoman Linnea Miller.
At around 7 p.m., remaining protesters gathered to the stage for a prayer circle. Residents brought their faith forward as they recalled the events occurring in the nation.
As protesters peacefully assembled in hopes to bring about change in their community, Cook commented by saying, “If we wish to be treated with kindness, then kindness must pour from every inch of our beings until the enemy is drowning in love.”
— By Nida Merchant