At the first protest against police brutality held in the Greater Lansing area following the death of George Floyd, the crowd at the Michigan Capitol Sunday dissipated as protesters began to stray away from the steps that were earlier flooded with their cries for justice and peace. Whether it was to head home or to continue protesting in East Lansing, a group formed near the side of the Capitol building.
They stood where they had, an hour earlier, created a blockade with their bodies, protecting police from other protesters while they took someone who had just vandalized the steps of the Capitol into custody. In that spot an hour earlier, they chanted “keep the peace." The focus of this peaceful protest was love, not hate.
But they weren't chanting like they were before. There were chants still going on in other areas as protesters cried the names of the victims of police brutality, but in this spot — just on the right side of the Capitol building — there was singing.
“And I'll rise up/ I'll rise like the day/ I'll rise up/ I'll rise unafraid/ I'll rise up/ and I'll do it a thousand times again."
They sang "Rise Up" by Andra Day, as intended by the organizers of the protest. It wasn’t just Black Lives Matter that participated, many groups rose up.
“It’s not one group. It’s not a special interest group,” Jordan Davis, one of the organizers of the protest, said. “It’s a little bit of everyone, and everyone’s voice is heard and everyone’s understood.”
Davis delivered many speeches throughout the day. Around the time the protest began, Davis encouraged everybody to join him on the steps and to take a pre-made sign or use available materials to make their own. He wanted anybody with a message to be able to share it.
“I came here today to show my support and participate in a show of solidarity with people to express their anger over what happened to George Floyd and all of the unarmed people who are killed by police all the time,” Davis said.
Aliana Sherman, who's not a part of any organization, organized this anti-police brutality event because she knew her city felt the pain America was feeling and said she felt obligated to provide a platform for their voice.
“I understood everybody felt some type of way, but who’s going to come out here and do it?” Sherman said. “Me, my mother and a couple other people (are) not a part of an organization, we are independent. We had a voice and we’re voicing it today and others feel the same. So, we got our message out on Facebook and it grew and grew."
Organizers preached love, unity and understanding. They encouraged people at the Sunday protest to get to know one another and have conversations because communication is key.
“Violence solves nothing,” Sherman said. “We need to solve our problems with love, and we need to solve our problems with talking to each other and listening to each other and where they’re coming from."
The Lansing protest didn’t turn into a riot. When the organizers ended the protest, it was still peaceful.
“The people that thought that it was going to be a riot today are the people who we need to really focus on,” Davis said. “The majority of our country wants to figure out a solution. The majority of our country wants to provide opportunity for everyone equally and that’s why we’re out here today. So, if anything, it’s just a show of how not to incite violence at these kinds of protests.”
After 1 p.m., the official ending time for the protest, many cleared the Capitol to march through the rest of Lansing and East Lansing. Later in the day, things escalated and turned more violent.
However, that wasn’t what happened at Sunday morning's protest, nor was it the plan for after. During the heated events that followed the protest, Davis shouted to the crowd “that’s how they win; that’s what they want you to do.”
The outcome of the peaceful protest was one that surprised organizers themselves.
“This outcome ... is literally breathtaking,” Sherman said. “I honestly thought it would be probably like 100 people and a whole bunch of haters, and it turns out that there’s so much love here. And the fact that we could all get this done — it’s just breathtaking.”
The outcome was thousands of community members gathering for the purpose of protesting against police brutality, injustice and racism. The organizers wanted everyone to understand that violence wouldn’t solve problems — understanding each other would.
“We need to communicate, and we need to trust each other,” Sherman said. “We’re all humans, and we’re all going to be in the ground one day anyways.”