The Unite Against Racism protest is held at County Home Park in Cockeysville.
Tonya Jackson saw the video of George Floyd being pinned to the ground by the knee of a Minneapolis police officer for nearly nine minutes, and like many around the country, her emotions ran amok.
Jackson, who is white, knew that haunting image could have been her husband or two children. As the wife of a black man and mother to two biracial children, she felt the need to organize a protest in her community similar to one she attended in Towson, and the countless that have swept the nation since Floyd was killed May 25.
Jackson and close to 100 demonstrators, mostly white, gathered Sunday afternoon at the County Home Park in Cockeysville, which is 63.7% white, prepared with signs for a march through the community.
But the event quickly shifted to what Jackson called a “confessional,” allowing people — young and old, black and white — to give their thoughts on the recent discussions surrounding police brutality, systemic racism and reform.
Jackson organized the event with Amber Poe, her cousin, to spark talks on the recent killings of black men and women at the hands of police and how they can make a change in their communities.
“This time, the dam has broke. And we’re all angry,” Jackson said.
Amber Brown, a Towson resident, spoke about the need to have demonstrations and discussions in white and other nonblack spaces. Brown shared the story of being dragged out of her car in Towson by a police officer who told her the vehicle was gang-affiliated.
“It could happen anywhere,” Brown said. “It can happen in Cockeysville. It can happen in Towson. It can happen in Lutherville.”
Karen Song, a Cockeysville resident, suggested the implementation of external review boards to hold officers accountable. She also said there needs to be more stringent training for entry into the force.
Song, who is black and originally from Jamaica, expressed her appreciation for Jackson using her privilege to bring attention to the movement.
“This is what an ally looks like,” Song said.
Recently appointed state Del. Lisa Belcastro spoke to the crowd about getting in touch with lawmakers to demand they support legislation on police reform.
“There are specific things we can do in the legislature to bring accountability to our police departments,” said Belcastro, a Democrat.
Belcastro specifically mentioned Anton’s Law, a bill that has failed to pass in the Maryland General Assembly the last two years. The legislation would create more police transparency, including requiring certain police disciplinary records to be public.
Children spoke about the need for change in schools, from the discussions that are had among peers to the way subjects are taught in the classroom. Jadon Gaines, who is biracial, spoke about his experience growing up in Hereford, a largely white community, and meeting people who did not speak out against racism because it did not affect them directly.
“I don’t understand why everyone can’t help,” said Gaines, 13.
Jackson said she sees a stark difference in demonstrations now and the ones that took place after the killing of Trayvon Martin, which spurred the Black Lives Matter Movement. She said people from all walks of life are tired of seeing videos of black people dying at the hands of the police, and she sees a fire from young people who are determined to stop the cycle of police brutality.
“The younger generation, they’re mad,” Jackson said. “And they’re not going to stop. Their voices want to be heard and they’re not going to take no for an answer. And until they’re heard, until change is done, they’re not going to stop. And I think they have enough of us older people behind them that they know they don’t have to stop.”