By Mark Champion and Katie Anderson
Nebraska News Service
Protestors gathered around the Capitol with Husker football icons on Saturday morning to march for policy change and police reform amid high-profile killings of black people around the country.
The event was organized in part by former Husker defensive back Kieron Williams and featured former Husker quarterback Eric Crouch and Nebraska football director of player development Ron Brown. Crouch called the Black Lives Matter movement incredible.
“Something’s coming,” Crouch said. “If you can’t feel something’s coming, you’re looking the wrong way.”
Crouch discussed his willingness to support the movement and noted his children’s potential for creating change.
“It does start at home. You can make a difference in your children’s lives. You really can. And then they make differences in other people’s lives,” he said.
Opening a Bible in front of the Capitol steps, Brown opened with a speech that recalled the story of The Good Samaritan and pushed those listening to find Jesus.
“I hope today, you decide, to trust your life over to Jesus Christ and allow his life to permeate yours. It will rock your world,” Brown said. “That is the only answer to not only this situation, but every other.”
Some signs hoisted by protestors listed victims of police brutality, displayed the rallying slogan “Black Lives Matter,” which demanded an end to systemic racism and paid in memoriam to James Scurlock, a protestor who was fatally shot by a white club owner in downtown Omaha on May 30. Marching from the Capitol to the edge of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s campus and back, the group chanted the names of George Floyd, Scurlock and Breonna Taylor, a woman fatally shot March 13 by police in Louisville, Kentucky.
Despite temperatures in the high 90s, the demonstrations drew in hundreds of people dressed in black and continued the national wave of protests sparked by the death of Floyd, a man who died in Minneapolis police custody on May 25. The day was split between two marches held in collaboration with one another, starting with the “NOT ONE MORE LIFE. March” at 10 a.m., which combined with the Black Lives Matter march at noon.
Williams, the former Husker player, started the march with a moment of silence.
Before turning the crowd’s interest from the Capitol toward the march’s path through Centennial Mall, Williams read a poem in which he described what it was like to grow up with a father who was incarcerated, and how that persuaded him to lose faith in the policing system. The goal of today’s march, he said, was to enact policies that police the policing system.
“If policies don’t start to get in place like next week, it might be too late,” Williams said.
Williams said he hoped people continue to take action and educate themselves.
“Walk away with knowledge and with action. Have action in your heart and work toward getting things changed,” Williams said.
Executive director of the Malone community center, John Goodwin, rallied the crowd to action. As his voice boomed out of the PA speakers and echoed around downtown, Goodwin took intermittent pauses to ask the crowd to say “8 minutes and 46 seconds,” the length of time officer Derek Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck — a time in which he said the world changed.
“It’s one thing to talk about what you’re going to do, but if you don’t confront the problem, you’re just talking,” Goodwin said. “Policies will change, but we have to choose to change also.”
The second march met at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s student union at noon. The march began when a group of student activists chanted, “Say his name.” Marchers responded, “George Floyd.” The whole way to the Capitol, the demonstrators chanted words about ending violence and racism.
With the sun glaring down on the Capitol, speakers voiced their concerns over the PA system about police brutality and racism. Some shared personal stories about their hardships growing up as a person of color.
In the 97 degree weather, a woman passed out from dehydration. People called 911 and moved her to a safe area.The speaker asked the crowd to bow their heads and say a prayer for her safety.
Even though protesters were dripping in sweat and had cracking voices from screaming, they continued to chant on the march back. Drivers along the way honked their horns in unison.
Demonstrators circled the fountain in front of Andersen Hall. A student activist ran around the fountain with an American flag chanting the names of some of the black victims of police brutality while the crowd drew in.
Once the crowd was gathered, a student asked everyone to take a knee and raise their fist in the air for a few minutes of silence for George Floyd.
Stephanie Bondi and Corey Rumann, both of Lincoln, were among many of the protesters marching to the Capitol. They held signs that said, “Call out systemic racism,” “Justice for James Scurlock” and “White supremacy is terrorism.”
Bondi and Rumann are members of Stand in For Nebraska, a grassroots organization in Lincoln that peacefully advocates for human rights and justice on local, national and international levels.
Rumann applauded the Judiciary Committee for hosting a listening forum to discuss policing and racial equality on June 8 in Omaha and June 9 in Lincoln, but believes action needs to be taken.
“We need to bring about systemic change, and it’s time for us and our Nebraska leaders to do something and take action,” Rumann said.
Undergraduate student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Josephine Choi from Kansas City, Missouri, was there for the community.
“I am here for solidarity with our brothers and sisters of color. It’s important to stand up for all the injustices they have been through,” Choi said.
A recent graduate from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Peter Coyne from Kansas City, Missouri, explained what changes he hoped to see from these protests.
“Ending racism is a much larger task, but these are the first steps. We need a more connected community with people of all different races,” Coyne said.