A crowd in Allegan knelt during 9 minutes of silence that capped a protest in Allegan against police brutality nationwide. (Photo by Ryan Lewis)

Protesters in Allegan raise awareness of racial injustice

By: 
Ryan Lewis, editor

On Saturday, June 6, more than a hundred gathered with signs near Hubbard and Cedar streets in Allegan to protest police brutality in the black community.

They waved at passing cars that honked and listened to speakers including one of the 3-hour event’s organizers, Eddie Quinones-Walker, Allegan County Sheriff Frank Baker, Allegan Police Chief Jay Gibson and local pastor Roger Bird.

Quinones-Walker said he and husband Alvin decided to plan the event after watching reports of protests spring up everywhere.

“We really were getting enveloped in the panic and anxiety over all of it,” he said.

Since Allegan and other local towns in this area appeared unaffected by the protests, they thought it was worth raising awareness of the racial injustice that was much more visible in more urban areas.

“I thought it was shameful our community was not saying a word about it,” Quinones-Walker said. By last Tuesday, they had resolved to figure out the details and began contacting the city administration and local police. “They gave us tons of support. We put something out on Facebook and it blew up.”

The Allegan resident said it drew individuals from throughout Allegan County.

“I couldn’t be more happy with the turnout and the energy here—and how willing everyone was to voice their opinion and be strong about it without causing any issues or violence.

“We came together and it was just about being heard.”

Sheriff Baker said it was a peaceful event.

“It was what we hoped for,” Baker said. “It’s great when the community can come together to voice concerns about things that are happening.”

He said he’s always believed local law enforcement need the support of the community to succeed.

“There are none of us here who condone some of the things that have happened that have torn communities apart. If we can be a small voice that carries to other places that can grow from this, that’s all of our goal,” Baker said.

Chief Gibson surprised those gathered on the hot, sunny day with a donation of bottled water and pizza.

“I’m really proud of how this went down,” he said. “I thought it was really good for Allegan.”

He said he’d seen a photo online that summed up the situation.

“It’s a woman holding a sign that said, ‘I’m 66 years old. Why am I still having to protest this crap?’ We have to start moving the needle and reach as many people as we can,” Gibson said.

The protesters ended the event by kneeling in silence for more than 8 minutes in recognition of the event that sparked worldwide protests: in Minnesota May 25, a policeman knelt on George Floyd’s neck for the same amount of time during an arrest; Floyd died, sparking peaceful and violent protests.

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