Walla Walla’s de facto town square, Land Title Plaza, has been the site of many protests and rallies over the years.
But Sunday’s peaceful protest felt different, and not just because it was so large. The crowd stretched two blocks along Main Street from Colville Street to Second Avenue. Although, the size of protest was indeed impressive.
What struck many at the protest was the effort to be inclusive and for the event to remain peaceful.
“We’re hoping for zero division — even if you don’t agree, we’re hoping that you listen. This is the time to listen, try to understand, and not have anyone else speak up,” Julissa Arellano said before the event began. “We’re trying to amplify brown and black voices today.”
The goal seems to have been met.
Sunday’s protest, which was led by Black Lives Matter of Walla Walla, was an extension of more than a week of daily protests — large and small — at First Avenue and Main Street. All have been peaceful.
The protesters Sunday and over the past week are fostering a much-needed discussion on systemic racism in America.
The killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin, which was captured on video, spurred the protests here and across the nation. The brutality of Chauvin, with his knee on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 43 seconds, has caused many to rightfully demand reform.
The protests are also spurring empathy for others.
“I can’t stand for this injustice in any way,” protester Jose Andrade said at a downtown rally about a week ago.
Andrade, who is a Latino, told a U-B reporter that his parents told him as a child to behave and say the right things when pulled over by police, how he feared for his parents growing up, wondering if they would be killed or not come home because they were apprehended for being illegal immigrants.
“I want to build a better future,” Andrade said.
We all do — or, at least, we should.
The peaceful protests in Walla Walla, which all seem to have an emphasis on allowing people to be heard, is a productive approach to the goal of a better future.