As people across the nation celebrated the Fourth of July, a group of Lafayette residents gathered to protest the nation’s injustices.
Two protests took place today at the Tippecanoe County Courthouse, one student-led, the other spearheaded by members of the Greater Lafayette community.
The first protest was organized by 15-year-old Anna Pinto, a student at West Lafayette Jr./Sr. High School. She said she was inspired to put the event together by a post on TikTok, a video-based social media website.
Pinto said she contacted a group of her friends with her idea and they worked to organize the event, spreading the word across social media and their social groups.
“We wanted it to be on July 4 because there is so much injustice in the country, so we’re taking a stance by not celebrating this holiday of freedom,” Pinto said.
Pinto’s mom, Karin, said her daughter is a member of a student-led climate strike organization at her school. She said her daughter, a rising sophomore at the school, has been watching and learning from the older student-activists to be able to continue their efforts once they graduate.
“For her mother and my generation,” Pinto’s father, Rob, said, “It wasn’t quite so much, ‘The children should be seen and not heard,’ which was more our parent’s generation, but it was a crossover point.
So we encouraged (Pinto) to speak her voice. And we have all kinds of lively discussions at dinner … yeah, I think she’s headed in the right direction.”
The event began with an opening message from Pinto in which she thanked the crowd of about 40 people for coming.
“We’re here to show the government that injustice cannot continue.” she said.
She led a period of silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds, to honor George Floyd, who died after a Minnesota police officer knelt on his neck for that exact amount of time.
Once the moment of silence ended, Pinto encouraged protesters to lay flowers, which she had asked them to bring in a Facebook post about the protest, around the courthouse. She said the flowers were meant to mourn the people whose lives have been lost due to racial injustice.
The flower-laying was followed by a period of open mic time, giving members of the protest an opportunity to speak up.
“One thing that’s important about Black Lives Matter is to diversity your friend group and hold your friends accountable,” Barakah Abdo-Baari said. “Many people in Indiana only have white friends or a majority of white friends, so I think if you want to understand what black people and people of color deal with, you should have friends who have stories about what they deal with on a daily basis, the discrimination, and what they really go through.”
The 16-year-old student also encouraged the crowd to support businesses run by people of color. She told the crowd not to buy anything from big corporations from July 4 to July 7, but to instead buy anything they needed from black-run businesses.
“This is not the end,” Pinto said in her final address to the crows. “Even if it gets really hot outside, even if the school year starts and even though we’re going through a pandemic, we’re going to fight for social justice.
“Our government is always preaching, 'Oh, we have liberty and justice for all,’ but right now we aren’t seeing that, we haven’t seen that in a long time, we haven’t seen that almost ever. And that needs to change.”
During Pinto’s address, a second, slightly older wave of protesters began to trickle in, touting signs advocating for equality and justice.
Nicole Johal, 19, said the second protest was a grassroots event meant to protest all injustice in the nation, beyond the Black Lives Matter movement.
“It’s not just Black Lives Matter,” she said. “But more injustices that you could even imagine … another example is kids locked up by ICE at the border, transgender rights, indigenous rights, what’s happening at Mount Rushmore. The list goes on and on.”
Bowie Thompson, 20, passed out printed off sheets of chants to the individuals who stuck around from the first protest and the new arrivals. She led the crowd in reciting the chants while they stood at a corner of the courthouse, holding signs high as they faced passing traffic.
“You all are amazing!” she shouted between chants. “You’re doing so good!”
While the protesting group stood with signs, others made their way through the crowd, asking protesters to sign petitions encouraging the government to centralize needs around black and indigenous people of color and helping protesters sign up to vote. Among these individuals was Alexcia Plummer, who, along with three others, recently met with Lafayette Mayor Tony Roswarski to discuss a reform in police funding.
After about half an hour of chanting, Thompson led the group of around 50 protesters in a march around the courthouse. They shouted “Black Lives Matter,” as they walked the perimeter, garnering honks of support from passing cars.
Along with the two groups of protesters, a group of a half dozen people in yellow vests attended both events. One vested individual, Ian Andrews, explained that they were Safety Marshalls, a self-proclaimed coalition of individuals from Standing Up for Racial Justice and the Younger Women’s Task Force. He said different combinations of individuals from both organizations have attended almost every Lafayette protest to monitor safety, keep protesters hydrated and line the perimeter of protests, keeping people in line.
“We made a lot of noise, and we did a lot today,” Thompson said, wrapping up the protest. “It’s the Fourth of July. A lot of people are celebrating today, and they shouldn’t be. We love that you guys have it in your hearts to be here today, because it’s so important.
"We can’t celebrate the birth of a racist nation without confronting that.”