Three seniors at Camas High School felt the need to do something following the death of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, by a police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota. So Kennedy Gardner, Annie Colvin, and Tessa Patterson got to work on organizing.
After the first protest on Tuesday, several community members wanted to organize another one.
Gardner said, “It was kind of last minute. Tessa texted me the other night, and she was just like we have to do something… So I told three people and they told a bunch of people and we had 50 people here Tuesday. There were so many people asking us to do it again so we decided to come back out, and here we are.”
At noon Friday, June 5, hundreds of local residents from all walks of life gathered at Dairy Queen in downtown Camas to protest the injustices that black communities endure in the United States. Whether they were protesting police brutality against African Americans or systemic oppression that affects people of color, everyone there was in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement and basic human rights.protests in downtown Camas.
“We realized that with more time we could have a bigger impact. We organized this for today definitely just to show the people of color in our community that we care and that we support them,” Colvin said.
CHS Sophomore Brynn Nygaard said, “I just believe that if we all come together and work to get equality for Black people that the violence will end. Nobody deserves to die, especially from the police who are supposed to be here to protect us.”
Camas resident Raymond Miller added, “The police union, they protect policemen. Even though the policemen did something wrong they’re not going to hold that guy accountable. They’re just going to protect him no matter what and that’s the thing that has to stop.”
CHS senior Ben Taylor also talked about how police brutality is a major problem in America right now. “I’m out here protesting for equal rights for African Americans. In our society right now, obviously there’s been a lot of things that are not okay with the current system and how things are working with police brutality and I want to help spread awareness.”
Several people at the protest touched on the subject of awareness and making an individual’s voice heard.
Camas resident Ken Campbell said, “We’re all created in the image of God. I can’t be silent about that.” He also added, “I think it (protesting) can elevate awareness among my friends, people in the town. We’re kind of removed here in Camas. Just elevating everybody’s awareness.”
Students also touched on the importance of spreading awareness of the injustices faced by the black community.
Taylor said, “A big part of it is obviously spreading awareness because a lot of times things aren’t filmed, especially before the day of social media. A lot of these things weren’t filmed and you wonder how many times these injustices happen to African Americans, specifically in our communities that went unnoticed. So it’s big about spreading awareness and making sure that equal rights are for everyone.”
Gardner talked about some racial incidents that transpired at CHS this past year and how the protests can help prevent more of those in the future. She said, “I hope that it can lead to more awareness of the black community. We had some incidents this year and I just don’t think our school did enough about those incidents so I’m hoping they’ll be like hey, things need to change in Camas. However that happens, I’m happy.”
CHS Junior Annalin King expressed the importance of numbers in a fight against inequality. “I think that protesting adds a physical voice to things that we all believe in and there’s strength in numbers. When we all come out in numbers it really shows that something needs to change,” she said.
A student at Discovery High School, Ellie Miller, also talked about how social media plays a big role in raising awareness, “I feel like since social media is such a big thing, and we’re always connected, just do your part. Inform other people of the situation and get the information out there.”
Local resident Jerlyn Holland spoke about police brutality against the black community. She said, “I’m protesting the unnecessary police killings of Black lives and I’m here to spread awareness for 8 Can’t Wait, which is an initiative by Campaign Zero that President Obama has backed. It’s something that the mayor can immediately implement and mayors across the country are taking the pledge to implement these 8 Can’t Wait policies. I’m asking for Camas mayor to do so as well, as well as all of the mayors in our country.” She also added, “Mayors have power to implement 8 Can’t Wait, that’s something that can happen immediately. Also, we need to have anti-racist education and all of the powers that be and all of the people that be can demand action to make sure that people are held accountable, and that we prioritize what needs to be prioritized.”
Several CHS teachers came out to support the student-led movement, too.
CHS Chemistry and ASB teacher, Charlotte Waters, said, “I think I was really touched that students thought to do this. They wanted to be supportive so I wanted my students to know that I support them and I support this movement. We all had to take personal days because technically we are in school, so it seemed like a small thing to do to get out here.” She also added, “I hope that people are really listening right now and having empathy for things that they don’t understand. I don’t know that every kid in Camas High School understands even what this movement is about. So maybe it’s just opening their eyes and starting a conversation.”
Miller is satisfied that people in the community are supporting the African American fight for equality. He said, “I’m glad that people are finally getting to see the situation that we had to exist in and to see other people out acknowledging the fact that they saw this thing and this thing is wrong, and they’re showing support.”
As this school year quickly comes to a close, several students want to see steps taken to ensure equality for people of color.
Colvin said, “I think we’ve had several incidents at our high school regarding racism and we are a pretty white-washed town. It’s really easy to get sucked into that, but honestly showing that the majority of students care and it’s important for us to recognize the diversity that we do have even when it’s limited.”
CHS senior and co-organizer of the event Tessa Patterson said, “Since it first started out as a bunch of high schoolers, it’s made up able to group together and show that we support everyone in the high school and that the students specifically love and support their POC friends.” She also added, “I think it’s time for people to get called out, be held accountable, and to change their ways as high school students.”
King believes that schools should address diversity more. “I think that a lot of times CHS doesn’t address its diversity or doesn’t tell their students how to deal with diversity or respect diversity. I think that there needs to be changes in our school about how we educate our students to go out into the real world, which is a little more diverse than CHS.”
CHS junior, Eli McMillan, added, “Hopefully we’ll be able to sustain the conversation and implement more education-based around this so all students can be heard and all students can be able to share their opinions.”
Amid the Coronavirus pandemic, hundreds of local residents felt the need to make voices heard in the form of a peaceful protest.
Local building owner Kyle Enkins said, “I think this represents who we are in Camas. This is freedom of speech, this is a peaceful assembly, this is people saying something needs to change. Hopefully, these voices can be heard.”
Residents are glad that they community, no matter how small, is showing support towards the struggles faced by the Black community.
Raymond Miller said, “George Floyd, I don’t know him, he might have done something wrong, but what he did wrong he did not deserve to die for. You can see in those policemen, they were taking pleasure in torturing that guy. That’s not right. I’m glad that people are finally getting to see the situation that we had to exist in and to see other people out acknowledging the fact that they saw this thing and this thing is wrong, and they’re showing support.”
Members of the community are concerned about the direction society is heading and felt the need to stand up for those who cannot.