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Peaceful protesters engage in March For Justice rally on UA Mall

Elijah Bia

Photograph of a sign held by a local Tucson protester for the Black Lives Matter Movement.

 “I hope we’re closer to Dr. King’s dream: peace,” one of the speakers at Wednesday’s March For Justice Rally said at the end of his emotive speech. 

The March for Justice organization led a peaceful rally on the steps of the Old Main building on the University of Arizona Mall on Wednesday, June 3, from 4-6 p.m. The rally was reiterated multiple times to be peaceful and “a healing space for our black brothers and sisters,” according to the organizers of the event. 

One of the organizers* was even designated to be a safety liaison for the protesters, to take care of the protesters and maintain the peace. There were fellow protesters and volunteers walking around handing out snacks and water bottles from their backpacks, an ASL interpreter for the speeches, people at the Student Union Memorial Center handing out signs and masks when people walked in and even medics. 

There were hundreds of people pouring all the way back to the student union from Old Main and around the sides of the building. The people gathered came from all different backgrounds, there to stand in solidarity and support of the black members of their community and the Black Lives Matter movement. 

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Before the event even began there was a rogue member that started chanting, “Say his name,” followed by the response of “George Floyd.” When the event began, there was chanting started by the events’ organizers, starting with “Say his name,” or “Say her name” followed by some of the names of the nationally recognized black citizens killed by law enforcement including George Floyd, Dion Johnson, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery. 

“We are protesting police brutality and everything that is going on, but the main intention for the entire thing was just to get people to hear our voices,” a protester said. “Basically to share experiences and raise awareness, make sure people know this is not just important while it’s trending. This is important every single day because it does affect everybody’s lives every day that are involved in this. The system needs reform, it has been built on racism, so we need reform.” 

The speeches were the main focus of the rally with about 10 black speakers that are members of the Tucson community as well as university students of color. Each speaker touched on their own experiences, the importance of being civically involved, the pitfalls of the president, the police force and the justice system. 

The first speaker, a student* studying political science and Africana studies, spoke strongly of our civic responsibilities and the importance of voting, more so voting responsibly and locally. 

One speaker was a university graduate student who spoke out against the university’s marching band, an organization near and dear to his heart, for not standing in solidarity with the movement. Their heartbreak was apparent as they acknowledged how they had been valued in the organization and was disappointed at the marching band’s lack of support “in a simple issue of human rights.” They stated that they were parting ways with the organization.

“People will always see my skin color before they see my degrees,” the speaker said in a poignant moment as they touched on their academic experience and achievement. 

          RELATED: Campus reentry update: Student leaders voice optimism and concern; statements on BLM protests

The protest comes after the country has had riots, lootings and protests in major cities all across the U.S. following the murder of George Floyd, a black man killed by a police officer in front of a group of citizens on May 25. His last words, “I can’t breathe,” were echoed in chant at the rally on Wednesday, as it has been all week at protests everywhere.  

There were protests in downtown Tucson throughout the weekend, but a week long 8 p.m. curfew was imposed by Gov. Doug Ducey following Saturday night’s protests. This posed a challenge to peaceful protesters and the future of their action, ultimately resulting in the organization of Wednesday’s protest in the burning hot Arizona afternoon. 

The university expressed their support through an email sent on June 3, the day of the rally, by the UA Police Department Campus Advisory Board, a group created to be a bridge between the campus community and the university’s police force.

“The pervasive systemic racism that has claimed countless Black and Brown lives must end; It is unacceptable. It is immoral,” the email read. “UAPD values strong collaborative relationships with the campus community and seeks to be responsive to community concerns.” They asked for responses of solution and concerns to be shared directly to 

The protest was not hateful — it was a call for justice from a broken system, people angry and scared for their lives and the lives of their loved ones. 

“It is not us against all police, it is us against the system,” a speaker shouted emotionally, followed by loud cheers from the entire crowd. 

*These names are being withheld to protect their privacy.

Follow Maggie Rockwell on Twitter 

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