A demonstration in Cartersville drew hundreds of people to the steps of the 1903 Bartow County Courthouse on Saturday afternoon.
One of the organizers — Tamia Hall, 21, of Cartersville— said the event was meant to be a wake-up call to the local community.
“To make sure that we are heard, to let people know we are tired, we are hurt,” Hall said. “We are not here out of anger, but more so out of passion. We’re tired of being misunderstood.”
As are scores of other demonstrations throughout the United States, Cartersville’s protest on Saturday was a reaction to a multitude of recent events — perhaps most prominently, the shooting death of Ahmaud Arbery in south Georgia and the police-involved death of George Floyd in Minnesota.
As demonstrators circled downtown Cartersville, many chanted “I can’t breathe” and “black lives matter.” Some held signs with messages like “no justice, no peace” and “the system is suffocating,” while others promoted slogans like “spread love” and “end police brutality.”
Dexter Benning, 58, was one of the many Bartow County locals to turn out for the event.
“I’m just glad to see that the young people are standing up and really speaking their mind,” he said. “And letting their feelings be known in a peaceful way.”
A sharp contrast to the images in Atlanta the night before, the Cartersville demonstration was the epitome of a peaceful protest — indeed, some stayed after the demonstration to pick up litter encircling the courthouse grounds.
“It basically showed that what they were expecting — riots and anger and burning stuff down — that is not who we are,” Hall said. “We are united in peace and love, and love will always be the answer.”
Demonstrators began arriving at the courthouse around 1 p.m. The assembly itself lasted about an hour; almost all of the crowd had dispersed by 3:30 p.m.
City of Cartersville Police Department personnel flanked the corners of West Cherokee Avenue throughout the demonstration. Officers in what appeared to be heavy tactical gear were stationed inside the courthouse itself, periodically peering out through the shaded window glass.
Their services were never required that afternoon. If any counter-demonstrators were onsite, they remained quiet — and equally peaceable.
Many passing motorists honked their horns in support of the demonstration. Although a few passersby waved obscene gestures, there appeared to be no violence.
Instead, there were hugs, hands held in solidarity and prayers.
Hall described the outpouring of support as overwhelming.
“It’s super positive,” she said. “I’m feeling the vibes and love it.”
A lifelong Bartow County resident — Todd Dean, 28, of Cartersville — said the demonstration transcended mere racial barriers.
“Today means that, as a people — not just as black or white — we’ve got to stand together and work through some of our traumas, some of our hurt,” he said. “And we were unified in doing it.”
The demonstration concluded with an invocation for unity, justice and peace — and a call to move forward with discussions about discrimination, inequality and representation in the local community.
“I think there needs to be a discussion about just relationships, relationships between white people and black people, relationships between the cops and the black and Latino communities,” Dean said. “That’ll definitely bridge the gap for us and them, because you want to do right by people that you care about. We start establishing those relationships and caring for each other and there you go — a better Cartersville is made.”
Other demonstrators had similar thoughts as to which direction they believe Bartow County should be heading.
“I’m hoping for equality, I’m hoping for fairness,” Hall said. “That’s what I’m hoping for.”