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Laurel High School students organize peaceful ‘Black Lives Matter’ protest and march

Shouting “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace,” more than 2,000 people marched Sunday afternoon from Laurel’s Granville Gude Park, down Cherry Lane past Laurel High School and back in a peaceful protest.

Led by Carlos Hinojosa, 17, the event was organized in four days in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

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Sunday’s march was one of many in Maryland and around the country protesting the death of Floyd, a black man who died May 25 in police custody after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

“My friends and I wanted to do something,” said Hinojosa, a rising senior at Laurel High School. “What started out as something between friends became so much more.”

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People of all ages gathered at the Harrison Burton Memorial Stage at Granville Gude Park, where Hinojosa greeted the crowd and introduced several speakers – all friends - who shared personal stories and their views on racism.

“It’s an amazing feat for him to pull this together. It’s moving,” said Laurel Chief of Police Russell Hamill III. “I’m glad to see everyone working together to help bring a stop to some horrible things.”

The crowd shouted their support during the speeches, with things only getting tense when Laurel Councilmember Carl DeWalt took the stage waving a black and white American flag with a thin blue line. Traditionally meant to show support for law enforcement, in recent years, the flag has been associated with white nationalists.

“Don’t give him the mic” many shouted as DeWalt tried to speak. As the boos grew louder, DeWalt left the stage and Hinojosa calmly introduced the last speaker, Martin Mitchell, a Laurel resident who urged the crowd to “Get to Annapolis” to vote for Anton’s Law (HB 1011), which would provide for increased transparency and accountability regarding investigations of alleged police misconduct.

Anton Black was 19 when he died in police custody on the Eastern Shore in September of 2018.

“We demand change,” Mitchell said. ‘Black lives matter.”

Marchers circled the lake waving signs, chanting and singing. There were bicycles, tricycles and strollers and numerous dogs, all marching together as bystanders waved and cheered and cars passing honked. Hamill estimated that more than 2,000 demonstrators attended the event.

Upon returning to the stage, the marchers heard comments from Mayor Craig Moe, Council President Keith Sydnor and Del. Joseline Peña-Melnyk, who represents Anne Arundel and Prince George’s counties.

The event also raised more than $2,000 through a Go Fund Me page set up by Hinojosa for the George Floyd Memorial Fund.

“I’m so happy,” Hinojosa said. “My friends and I worked so hard to get this done..”

Hassana Blakwell brought her two children Tristan, 11, and Laylia, 9, to the event.

“This gives us all an opportunity to join together with others to express our grief and to go forward,” Blackwell said. “I am very proud of them and thankful.”

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