Buchanan hosts protest in support of black lives

BUCHANAN — As protestors marched through downtown Buchanan Monday evening, they carried with them handmade signs, some made of spare cardboard, others of pristine cardstock, displaying messages of “Black Lives Matter,” “defund the police” and “justice for all.”

As the protestors made their way down Redbud Trail, their chants grew louder, drawing applause from area business owners and honks from drivers passing by.

“Say his name,” called the leaders of the pack from the front of the procession.

The response echoed back down the street.

“George Floyd.”

Monday evening, Buchanan residents and natives hosted a peaceful protest and march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The rally, which saw hundreds of participants march from Buchanan High School to the Buchanan Police Department, joined the thousands of protests being hosted in all 50 states and across the globe following the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old African American man, who was killed in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd died after Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, held a knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes.

“We wanted a way to share our voice,” said Deejra Lee, the Buchanan native who organized the event. “It was important to do it here because these are the people who care and want to see change in the world.”

An African American woman born and raised in Buchanan, Lee called her hometown “a special place” where she did not feel racism growing up. It was not until she graduated high school and entered the workforce that she said she experienced discrimination based on her skin color.

Following Floyd’s death, Lee said she felt the need to organize a march to call for justice and equality so that her children could have a better future and would be able not to have to grow up facing racism.

“We’ve been fighting the same fight for so long,” Lee said. “We need to call for a change.”

Once Lee decided to organize a protest, it came together within days. She said she was grateful for the response of support from the Buchanan community, but she was not surprised.

“It’s definitely rewarding to see how many people are interested and supportive,” she said. “I wouldn’t expect anything less from this community.”

One group that supported the protest was the Buchanan Police Department. Many officers, including Police Chief Tim Ganus, marched alongside protestors.

“We have to figure how law enforcement, the community can do better,” Ganus said. “That’s what this is about. It’s about us coming together and walking with these people and saying we are in this together.”

Calling Floyd’s death an “unacceptable tragedy,” Ganus said he and his department is listening to the community to find out what law enforcement can do to serve the community and people of color better.

“It’s not about what I think. It’s about what they think,” he said. “We are their police department, so we need to know what is it that we can do better for them. We need voices like this to tell us, ‘hey, we are doing a good job’ or ‘we need to do better.’”

Once protestors completed their roughly one-mile march from Buchanan High School to the police station, organizers instructed participants to kneel for eight minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time police officer Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck before he died.

Following Monday night’s demonstration, Lee said she was excited by the turnout and hoped that by allowing Buchanan to share its voice, change could take place.

“I hope people see how huge Buchanan is even though it is a small town,” she said. “It’s small towns like this that hold the biggest impact. Though we are small, we can have an impact.”