A youthful, peaceful protest in Smithfield

Published 11:05 am Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Gathering supports ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement


By Diana McFarland


Managing editor

Armed with signs, chants and high spirits, a group of Smithfield residents took to the streets Monday evening in peaceful protest.

Subscribe to our free email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox

The predominantly black group of residents was protesting the recent shootings of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota and the shooting of white police officers in Texas.

They were acting in conjunction with the national Black Lives Matter movement. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

“Hands up, don’t shoot! No place, no justice! Black lives matter!” chanted the crowd of about 40 people that met at the intersection of the Route 10 bypass and West Main Street.

The protesters were unaccompanied by police for more than an hour. Three agencies, the Smithfield Police, the Virginia State Police and the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office, eventually responded to a report of individuals blocking the roadway, said Smithfield Police Chief Steve Bowman. Based on photos taken at the scene, there were at least 13 officers there — about one for every three protesters.

When police arrived, there were about half a dozen people in the road, but they quickly removed themselves once alerted that blocking a roadway was unlawful, Bowman said.

Bowman said three agencies responded because he had limited personnel available. and they work together as a partnership in situations such as these. The police were there to ensure the safety of the protesters and motorists, he said.

There were no arrests, Bowman said.

Terri Harris of Smithfield was carrying a sign that stated, “Don’t hate me because I’m black.”

Harris was protesting because she feels sorry for the black men and the police officers killed. There needs to be equal rights for everyone, she said.

Marcal Spratley of Smithfield came to the protest because he’s tired of living with hate, senseless murders and racism.

Marcus Evans, 26, of Smithfield, said he wants police to stop killing black people. He said black men have to worry every time they get pulled over by police that it will turn into something else.

He told of being stopped by police in Suffolk for what they said was a broken light over his license plate. Evans said he and his passenger were asked to get out of the car, were handcuffed and told to sit on the curb while the car was searched.

Not finding anything, they let us go,” he said.

Police always think we’re smoking marijuana. We don’t smoke marijuana, he said.

Of the group, there were only two white protesters, Gina Cain and her daughter, Hannah, 13, of Carrollton. They were alerted to the protest on Facebook.

Cain said she sees social injustice for black people in the community.

The community needs to admit there’s a problem before it can be fixed, she said.

Cain said she brought her daughter along to allow her to be part of something positive. Hannah agreed that she was doing something positive.

Cain was sad that she and Hannah were the only white people at the protest.

Those driving by could at least stop and support the group for a few minutes, she said.

The protesters did receive multiple honks and waves by passing motorists.  {/mprestriction}