Protestors laid on the ground in front of the Grant County Courthouse with their hands behind their backs for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd's neck before he died.
The protestors shouted, "I can't breathe," the words Floyd had repeated before he died on May 25.
“It's lying to say that racism doesn't happen in the United States,” said 18-year-old Trinidi Alfaro. “It's a problem, and it's not going to change if we just sit down and keep letting it go on.”
Alfaro, a Marion High School 2020 graduate, and her friend Lauren Flynn began protesting on Friday, May 29, joining protests nationwide following the death of George Floyd.
The two women said they stood together as many people drove by and yelled at them to go home.
“As a white woman, I have to speak up,” Flynn said. “I have to be that voice for them because most of the time, they won't be heard. There has to be a change.”
By Saturday evening, more than 40 other protestors joined Alfaro and Flynn, including Brittani Flowers.
“I have four black sons who have got to grow up in a world where I have to be scared to death if they get pulled over or stopped for anything,” Flowers said. “I think it is a shame that I’ve had to teach my sons how to react to the police.”
Originally from Arkansas, Corey Swift joined the protests on Saturday because of his personal experiences with being racially profiled by the police.
“I’ve been stopped and harassed for no reason. I’ve had to show my ID for doing nothing wrong,” Swift said. “We’re tired of it. Start holding these cops accountable.”
Swift said he had lost friends and family to police brutality.
“Regardless of what you believe, this will eventually be on everybody's doorstep,” he said. “So we can handle it now or wait until it's your own son or your own daughter, and then you have to deal with it.”
By Sunday evening, more than 100 protestors gathered outside the courthouse.
“I didn't expect there to be so many people,” Alfaro said. “At first, it was just Lauren and me. It's exciting, but the more attention you get, the more problems you will have.”
Not wanting any problems, Alfaro said she made sure the protest would remain peaceful, acknowledging there have been violent riots taking place across the country.
“We want the police to know, and we want the people around us to know that's not what we're here (for),” Alfaro said. “We don't want to set fires. All we want is for a simple protest to help people understand and hopefully make a change.”
Marion Mayor Jess Alumbaugh said he was in support of the peaceful protests and plans to attend a rally scheduled for Friday at 9 a.m. at Marion City Hall.
“Some change has to happen,” Alumbaugh said. “One more life is way too many.”
Alumbaugh said he has met with many leaders in the community who have told him that racism within the police force is a systemic issue.
“I haven't been able to get specifics on how we can do that,” Alumbaugh said. “How can we do a better job of recognizing people who have more racial insensitivity and keep them from becoming law officers?”
Alumbaugh said he plans to meet with local leaders this week to discuss how the city can do better.
“I've told (the police department) and the fire department that the best policing you can do is when you police yourselves,” Alumbaugh said. “If you know there are people who are not doing things the way they should, confront them.”
Marion Police Department Chief Angela Haley said she supported citizens' right to protest.
“Our goal this weekend was to make sure that they were able to do it and do it safely,” Haley said.
Having hard conversations and working together is what the community needs to do to improve, Haley said.
“This community is diverse. This community is made up of a lot of good people, and quite frankly, the police department is also made up of a lot of good people,” Haley said. “We share the same hopes and dreams. We all want the same thing. We're united in that.”
The protestors peacefully stood on the courthouse square and chanted, “No justice, no peace,” “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Black Lives Matter.”
Alfaro noted the significance of the location of the protest.
On Aug. 7, 1930, Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith were hung on the corner of the Marion courthouse square, the last known lynching in Indiana.
“A lot of people in Marion try to cover it up,” Alfaro said. “We’re in history books for that. I've seen it in classrooms, in my school library. I've seen it.”
Nearly a century later, in the same location, Alfaro said the community is still calling for justice.
Torri Williams, who addressed the crowd during the protest on Sunday, posted on Facebook saying, “I pray the images of today, a mosaic of beautiful people, will become embedded in the city’s collective identity as well.”
The protestors will continue to gather until they feel satisfied, Alfaro said.