Springfield, IL - Black Lives Matter. No justice, no peace. I can't breathe.
These phrases echoed throughout Springfield as 1,000 people peacefully protested Monday afternoon. The group started to gather together around 3 p.m. before marching through downtown to the Illinois State Capitol Complex. Organizers say it was a beautiful day to come together and march for peace. The event was initially planned by three local teenagers - Allaijah Davis, Ariona Fairlee, and Nykeyla Henderson. 24-year-old Tyrese Thomas also helped put together a Facebook group for anyone looking to march from the intersection of Seventh Street and Capitol Avenue to the Statehouse.
"This is beautiful. I didn't expect this turnout," Thomas said. "I'm so happy to see everyone out here."
The event came exactly a week after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police officers. Many of the protesters laid on the ground for eight minutes and 46 seconds to recognize the time span former officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd's neck.
Peace and progression
The group says no one should resort to looting or violence, as that takes away from the core message of protesting. Their goal: peace and progression. Several people the Capitol Bureau spoke with were happy to see people of all races and ages coming together in a time of need.
"They're tired. They're tired of seeing this inhumanity," said Bessie Williams. "So we have to show our youth like when you want change, you have to come together. You have to protest you have to have your voice heard, period."
Williams adds it's important for everyone to share the message of peaceful protest instead of the negative images many have shared on social media. She says a lot of change is needed in order to move forward. However, she explains equal opportunities for African Americans would be a great start.
"If black lives don't matter, no lives matter. We're tired of being put down," Williams said. "I mean look at how men are shot down. There's no fairness. What's good for the goose is good for the gander." She adds it's just not right after ancestors fought for everyone's rights.
"They marched, they voted. They got beat and everything else for us to stand here today to be able to do this."
End Police Brutality
Protesters of all ages say they want to see that change, including 17-year-old Hannah Markey.
"When we do this, it shows numbers. It shows people who care," Markey explained. "We're not going to stand by while there's injustice for anybody in this country, but especially for black people."
Markey brought plastic wrap to the Capitol to provide another visual for protesters. She spent several minutes spray painting a message on the wrap at the corner of Second Street and Capitol Avenue: "End Police Brutality." She hopes to go to college for art to spread the message even more.
"I'm trying to bring this change, I'm trying to speak to my people. I'm trying to speak to all people - trying to speak to America, trying to speak to the world on this," Markey said. "That's what we're trying to do right now. That is what this is. We're just trying to end this, for real. There has to be a resolve. There has to be reform, there has to be justice."
Markey says everyone should keep advocating together, as "we are only stronger together."
"We want respect and a fair opportunity. Stop killing us."
Williams adds people should stop using derogatory words when they are around black people. "They need to stop pegging us as thugs and ghetto. We're very educated - we're smart - and we want to own our own businesses. We want to be able to help the community," Williams said.
"We want respect respect and a fair opportunity. Stop killing us."