Black Lives Matter group continues to make presence known

6 mins read

By Mike McCombs
Photo by Bob Sofaly

Every day since May 30, protesters have occupied some portion of the parking lot in front of the old Piggly Wiggly at the intersection of Boundary Street and Ribaut Road.

The group originally gathered in response to the killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, by the police in Minneapolis, Minn. But the protests, like some of those around the country, have become something more.

“This teacher believes Black Lives Matter.” – Protest sign.

On Sunday, June 7, the protesters went on a “Peaceful March” from Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park downtown, up Bay Street to Bladen Street, down Bladen to Boundary and then to the corner across from the courthouse all the while, sharing their messages of unity, nonviolence and most important of all, hope for the future.

The string of people, around 175 long, carrying their signs, was a diverse group – young and old, male and female, black, white and brown.

“Your silence is violence.” – Protest sign.

There were people trekking across town with people they would not usually take a short walk with.

The protests were initially organized by Tim Garvin and JaCorey Wright. Garvin is still playing a prominent role, speaking in the park before the group departed for the Piggly Wiggly.

“I see a lot of familiar faces,” Garvin said, standing in shirt and tie on a picnic table, clearly enthusiastic. “That’s good.”

During the protest the previous Sunday, Garvin, like many there, was positive but still a little on edge. This time around, seven days of making his voice heard later, there was a confidence.

“We want to be heard, we want to better our community, we want to be united,” Garvin said.

The march was still about Black Lives Matter. It was still about protesting police violence and racism and oppression and double standards.

“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.” – Protest sign.

But this group of protesters isn’t content to stand on the corner and elicit horn blowing. They want solutions. They don’t intend for things to go back to “normal.”

In the week since the protests began, the group has taken a name and has a Facebook page – Our Peaceful Protesters. Members of the group have met with Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling and other leaders, intent on doing what they can to fix the things that they feel need fixing.

“A system cannot fail those it wasn’t designed to protect.” – Protest sign.

Sunday’s march was organized by an 18-year-old. Jayda Scheper, a recent Beaufort Academy graduate, was asked to plan a march in honor of Floyd, whose funeral was Sunday.

“I was hesitant,” Scheper said. “It was a lot to ask, I didn’t want it to be half done, not for George Floyd.

But Sunday couldn’t have gone smoother for Scheper and her two 17-year-old friends, Braxton Tolbert and Shanese Bostick.

“It’s overwhelming,” Scheper said. “I’m speechless honestly. I never would have expected for me and my two friends, … we’re teenagers, for us to plan something and have this big of a turnout. It’s amazing.

“The amount of support that we’ve had in our community, not that I thought that people wouldn’t come out. But there’s been people bringing water every day, restaurants catered to the people out here. The amount of love, I didn’t think there would be hate, necessarily, but the amount of love has outweighed the hate.”

“You can’t have unity without U and I.” – Protest sign

Despite all the support, though, Scheper, who will begin working toward a career in law this fall at Winthrop, knows this is an opportunity to effect real change, something that is rare.

“We need action behind our words,” she said. “Without action, our words are just words and nothing else.”

Above: A crowd of 150 to 200 people of all ages marched and carried signs in support of Our Peaceful Potesters and Black Lives Matter on Sunday from Henry C. Chambers Waterfront Park to Beaufort City Hall without incident

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