Keishla De Leon, dressed in all black with a red stream running through her back, maneuvered through a crowd people sitting on the Patterson Park grass Wednesday.
De Leon was a co-organizer of yet another demonstration to protest police brutality and emphasize that Black Lives Matter, a theme every such gathering in Baltimore City has been centered on since the killing by police of black people such as George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in recent months in Minneapolis and Louisville, Kentucky, respectively.
Wednesday’s crowd in Southeast Baltimore sat on blankets with faces covered by masks. People held signs protesting police brutality and racism.
The Justice for George Floyd event started with speeches and progressed to spoken word. Local black businesses were represented at tables on the perimeter of the crowd. Books were distributed and food was offered. Local musical acts performed.
Close to 200 people attended the event, which was organized by The Last 100 Years .
“We want to make a stop. We want to make a change. So with that being said, this event to us means just unity and peace and showing everyone we can do this together,” De Leon, 19, said.
The event Wednesday was less of a protest and more of a gathering of like-minded young people in high school and college searching for change.
Baltimore City Councilman Zeke Cohen, a Democrat, spoke to the crowd, opening his speech by saying “Black Lives Matter.” Cohen, a former teacher in Sandtown-Winchester, addressed the issue of residents calling the police on kids at parks and the need for better school buildings.
“Young people should have recreational centers that function. Young people should be able to come to Patterson Park and not have the police called on them,” he said as members of the crowd clapped and shouted.
As rain picked up, the crowd began to slowly disperse.
Baltimore Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, who said he was invited by the organizers, commended the crowd, which peacefully demonstrated and watched the young performers.
“What we are seeing is peace and love and joy, and this is what we need more of,” Harrison said. “To figure out how we can coexist and at the same time protect and serve them. This is about building relationships.”
Shortly after, a small group of demonstrators marched around the sidewalk of the park chanting, “Black Lives Matter” and “No Racist Police.”
De Leon hopes the groundwork laid Wednesday and in similar gatherings earlier in the month can be built on as people find solutions to long-standing problems.
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“It doesn’t just stop at the police. It continues with everyone, in general, talking with each other and spreading their thoughts with knowledge. Once we give an outlet for people in the community to do more things, it becomes bigger,” she said.