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Black Unity Supporters, Counter Protesters Discuss Police Reform

Elizabeth Gabriel

Roughly 100 Black Unity supporters met for a protest Wednesday night outside of the Springfield Public Library. But plans changed when the group had an open dialogue with dozens of counter protesters who also showed up. 

One of the major topics of discussion was the presence of other groups, and when a group should be considered counter protesters. Claire Reyna with Black Unity said the group does not counter pro-police protests because that doesn’t allow for meaningful education or discussion.

“We expect the same thing from you,” said Reyna. “If you guys are about unity and you guys were holding your own thing, we wouldn’t show up there just because [Tyshawn Ford] says. If you guys weren’t there, we wouldn’t have been there. So we’re doing our own thing. This is for Black lives. This isn’t an anti-white lives matter [movement]. This is a Black Lives Matter movement.”

Marcus Edwards, a person of color with the counter-group We the People of Lane County, Oregon, said both sides need to come together to fix the division in the community. 

“Maybe they’ll listen to the kid with the afro, standing by a bunch of allegedly racist, neo-Nazi’s and Trump supporters,” said Edwards. “You think these people would be all that if they were taking care of me and me taking care of them—us being there for each other like we are? That’s what we have to get to. That’s that love that we have to share. That’s the only thing that’s going to kill all of this anger, this hatred. ”

The night continued with discussions around the purpose of the Black Lives Matter movement, and the difference between police reform and abolishment. Tyshawn Ford, one of Black Unity’s leaders, said they are not an anti-police movement, but a movement for equal rights.

“You think that once the police are gone, that white supremacy is just gonna disappear? That’s one weapon of white supremacy,” said Ford. “It’s the prison system, it’s the school system, it’s the judicial system—it’s more than just the police. We are not here just because of the police.”

The evening ended around 9:30pm, with both sides still in disagreement. While both seemed to support the BLM movement and police reform, they did not seem to agree on what police reform would look like.

Elizabeth Gabriel is a former KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She is an education reporter at WFYI in Indianapolis.
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