Photos in article from Zach Hill
SOLOMONS, Md. — After facing temperatures that could only be countered by a bayside breeze, protesters seized another opportunity to exercise their First Amendment right to peaceably assemble at the Solomons Island boardwalk on June 10.
With roughly over 100 peaceful protesters gathered from all walks of life, chants of “no justice, no peace” and “hands up, don’t shoot” echoed across the water, serving as a reminder of why they showed up in the first place: to protest the death of George Floyd, 46 of Minneapolis, and to show opposition to racial injustice in every corner of the country.
While many people recall a protest on June 1 at the Prince Frederick shopping center which ended in police utilizing tear gas and flash bangs among other deterrents to disperse protesters, some noticeable changes could be observed between the two largest Calvert County protests in the past couple weeks.
Summer Mealing holding a sign that reads “Black Futures Matter.”
“Organization,” Summer Mealing, a protester who was on the front lines of last week and this week’s protests, said was the biggest difference between the two. “I think anytime you do activism work you have to take the time. There’s not really room to cut corners or anything like that, you need to prepare for all situations. We had an amazing team, everybody had their own jobs, we had tactics, we had people who knew what they were doing and who were all here for black lives…
Everybody has to be on one accord, for the right purpose, and [tonight] turned out beautifully.”
One noteworthy moment from the evening came when protesters staged a “die-in” under the pavilion, where people were asked to lay on their back or stomach for eight-minutes and 46-seconds, the same amount of time a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd, in an effort to memorialize Floyd and show opposition to police brutality.
However, led by a group of everyday residents of Southern Maryland, the smell of the brackish bay water tingled their noses as they marched up and down the stretch of boardwalk nearest the pavilion, with random citizens onlooking from benches and cars.
And the passion of the crowd persisted.
“My son is going to be black, and I would rather march everyday so they don’t have to,” Mealing said after the event. “My brother is black, and my father marched for me, and we are still going through this. At some point this has to stop.”
Protesters who turned out in St. Mary’s and Calvert County have not come empty handed. Aside from the signs that they wave, they have developed a list of ideas that they hope to see implemented by government on all levels.
Some common themes which have been discussed at protests over the past weeks include creating community oversight committees that would help pass judgement on how police officers handle situations, implementing police body camera usage as standard through the Maryland legislature, and even adjusting some police hiring practices.
Tierra Cooke, one of the most vocal black protesters that helped lead the first racial injustice march in St. Mary’s on June 3, said she would like to see some changes that can only be made at the ballot box.
“I would like for our government to have more individuals who have knowledge in culture and will not keep the knowledge out of school system, away from media, away from society,” Cooke said. “I also want police departments everywhere to not only go through extensive ethics training but also create a better hiring process… The main thing I want is for my race to be truly free of oppression.”
Protesters listening to the speaker at the Solomons pavilion.
Even though less protesters showed up in Solomons when compared to many marches last week across Southern Maryland, the group that showed up voiced their passion, and is determined to be heard.
And they aren’t going to be stopping anytime soon.
“As long as I got breath in my body, I’m gonna march,” Mealing said.
Contact Zach at firstname.lastname@example.org