Unity march surpasses expectations

As they looked out on the sea of people, organizers admitted they were moved by the turnout for George’s Peaceful Unity Demonstration march to Holland’s Unity Bridge. The crowd of more than 3,000 was filled with people of all ages, races, and ethnic backgrounds.

“This is beyond anything that we have dreamed or imagined,” co-organizer Shutaveya Ward told the crowd. “We didn't know what we were doing when we were putting this together, but we knew we needed to do it. I'm so grateful that you guys came alongside us, that the police came alongside us, that the churches and the pastors came alongside us…”

Shutaveya Ward speaks to the crowd during a rally before the march.
Protesters carried signs about the African American victims of police brutality.

Chants of “No justice! No peace!” and “Black Lives Matter” were punctuated by enthusiastic car horns during George’s Peaceful Unity Demonstration march in Holland on June 7. 
For many, their faith was a big reason they came. Several protesters carried signs referencing Bible verses. Others carried signs demanding an end to police brutality. Ward says the gathering was designed to be not only peaceful but inclusive because addressing systemic racial inequality will require everyone to push for change.

“We choose unity. We choose peace. We choose togetherness,” Ward said. “We can enact change by standing together.”

Sunday's rally was in support of Black Lives Matter, a human rights movement that campaigns against violence and systemic racism toward black people.
After the rally, protesters begin their walk to the Unity Bridge.
Protestors walk along Douglas Avenue to the Unity Bridge.
Participants were there to show their solidarity in standing against racism in America. Protests and rallies have sprung up across the country in recent weeks, after video surfaced of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, dying while Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck.

The gathering was the idea of Lily Harman, 18, who found others to help her to make it happen. One of three teens to speak, she told the crowd that she felt an obligation to use her privilege to help others.

“As a community, a country, a human being, we are capable of doing better — capable of prosecuting and vilifying those who take human life unfairly, capable of preventing it from happening again. It all starts here, with every individual person, with learning to love one another enough to value each life, and with learning to fight back against the ones who don’t."

This article is part of The Lakeshore, a new featured section of Rapid Growth focused on West Michigan's Lakeshore region. Over the coming months, Rapid Growth will be expanding to cover the complex challenges in this community by focusing on the organizations, projects, programs, and individuals working to improve conditions and solve problems for their region. As the coverage continues, look for The Lakeshore publication, coming in 2020.
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