Amid fight for justice, students take charge in local protests

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Sofia Barnett

Demonstrators protest across the street from Dallas City Hall Saturday. “The energy was very powerful. It is so surreal,” Independence High School rising senior Bianca Agoretti said. “Seeing it on TV and being in it is a different atmosphere. Everyone there was so supportive and we were all looking out for one another. Everyone was making sure you had enough water and you had food.”

Protests continue across the country following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday, May 25, with demonstrators demanding justice and action against police brutality, systemic racism, and oppression of black people in America. 

Cities across Texas have joined the fight, with protests in Dallas, Austin, and Houston taking place Saturday and scheduled to continue Sunday. 

The energy was very powerful. It is so surreal. Seeing it on TV and being in it is a different atmosphere. Everyone there was so supportive and we were all looking out for one another. Everyone was making sure you had enough water and you had food.”

— Independence High School rising senior Bianca Agoretti

Independence High School rising senior Bianca Agoretti attended a demonstration in downtown Dallas on Saturday, where she witnessed both support and solidarity. 

“The energy was very powerful. It is so surreal,” Agoretti said. “Seeing it on TV and being in it is a different atmosphere. Everyone there was so supportive and we were all looking out for one another. Everyone was making sure you had enough water and you had food.”

According to Agoretti, violence did not ensue immediately.  

“It was a peaceful protest,” Agoretti said. “Things did not escalate nor did we loot until the cops threw tear gas at us.” 

However, Dallas Police Chief Reneé Hall, who made the decision to employ tear gas, defended the use of nonlethal chemical weapons at Dallas City Hall Saturday as a means to stop protestors from vandalizing property. 

“As I tried to defuse the situation — along with the officers — we were not successful, and to ensure that no one was harmed or injured, we made the decision to deploy this,” Hall said to The Dallas Morning News.

A spokesperson from the department with more than 30 years of experience on the force said he couldn’t remember the last time they used tear gas before this, according to The Dallas Morning News

Intended peaceful protests have continued into Sunday, extending to McKinney with a student-led demonstration put on by March For Our Lives Greater Dallas Area from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at 2200 Taylor Burk Drive

“My mindset is to peacefully stand in solidarity with protestors in Minnesota and join the rest of the country in demanding justice for George Floyd,” MFOL Greater Dallas Chapter Lead James Thompson said. “I’m protesting the systematic oppression of people of color and demanding that justice be served.” 

I’m protesting the systematic oppression of people of color and demanding that justice be served.”

— MFOL Greater Dallas Chapter Lead James Thompson

Thompson’s plans for the protest are only peaceful, taking safety precautions beforehand.

“I want people to know that the protests are not inherently violent or out of hand, it is a reaction to years of oppression,” Thompson said. “I want people to know that there’s a place in this movement for everybody and it’s everyone’s duty to advocate for justice. Obviously we can’t control individual people, so my fear is that the police are going to retaliate or someone is going to incite violence, which is not our purpose. I’ve instructed everyone I’ve talked to to protest peacefully and if things start to get out of hand, to leave immediately.” 

Precautions amidst COVID-19 are also being taken, as Thomspon has instructed attendees to follow CDC social distancing guidelines

“It sucks that we have to do this in the first place, but organizing a protest in the middle of a pandemic obviously adds more challenges,” he said. “We’ve instructed people to remain six feet apart and wear a mask or some sort of facial covering just to follow the CDC guidelines.”

Standing with Thomspon is MFOL Greater Dallas Outreach Lead Kashish Bastola, who hopes to address accountability and solidarity within the nonblack communities of color. 

“Going into this protest, I am hoping to shed light onto the microaggressions caused by nonblack people of color in society,” Bastola said. “As a South Asian, I have witnessed the ‘Model Minority’ myth dividing people of color to distract from the main issue. It’s so important that the Asian community and nonblack community as a whole understand that our place in this society directly benefits the historic oppression and exploitation of the black community. I fight today to show that the system has not divided us and we are still one entity trying to battle our shared discrimination.”

Although Bastola believes solidarity is crucial, he stresses the fact that ears need to be turned to listen to the voices of black people. 

While it is essential to show unity as people of color at these times, we must listen to the main party affected, black people. We must not misconstrue their oppression and their message.”

— MFOL Greater Dallas Outreach Lead Kashish Bastola

“I think that nonblack people can stand in solidarity by attending these protests or performing any type of direct action, whether virtual or physical,” Bastola said. “When discussing nonblack people of color, it’s crucial to understand that we are here today because black people laid the foundation for people of color today and our rights and liberties come directly from their struggles. Nonblack people of color must stand in solidarity with black protesters and remember that ‘your fight is my fight’ or ‘tu lucha es mi lucha.’ However, in doing so, it’s also important to remember that we do not cover up black voices. While it is essential to show unity as people of color at these times, we must listen to the main party affected, black people. We must not misconstrue their oppression and their message.”

Thompson hopes this protest leads McKinney and its surrounding North Texas cities into a more prosperous and aware direction.

“We hope that in this area we raise awareness about the issue and encourage people to be active in their communities, whether it be protesting, voting, going to school board or city council meetings,” Thompson said. “We want to show that when there’s injustice, the people of McKinney, the people of North Texas will show up, will stand in solidarity, and will hold the police accountable.”