SHELBY — The Black Lives Matter movement has made its way to Shelby, Ohio.
A group of approximately 50 protestors marched in 90-degree heat up and down Main Street in Shelby on Wednesday afternoon. Their chants reverberated against the downtown buildings: “When I say ‘Black Lives’ you say ‘Matter!'”
Shelby’s peaceful protest was just one of thousands of marches cropping up across the country since video surfaced of George Floyd, a 46-year-old Minneapolis resident, slowly suffocating under the knee of a white police officer on Memorial Day. The officer involved has since been fired and charged with murder.
Protests have taken place in most major cities in Ohio, and locally in Mansfield, Ontario, Ashland and Mount Vernon. Wednesday’s protest in Shelby was especially important to the young organizers involved.
“Shelby is a very racist town,” said Lizzy Campo, a Shiloh resident who works in Shelby. “I wanted to show people there are other people that believe differently.”
Campo said it’s “upsetting and disgusting” to watch racist thoughts and actions taking place in Shelby, including from a few hecklers as the protestors marched up and down Main Street.
Jordyn Sims, who organized a peaceful protest in Ontario last weekend, said she experienced racism as a student at Pioneer Career and Technology Center.
“It’s very uneducated, and they won’t take the time to open their eyes and learn something different than what their grandparents taught them or their friends taught them,” Campo said.
The Shelby Police Department helped block Main Street at the intersections of Gamble Street and Mansfield Avenue. The group of protestors paused for 8 minutes and 46 seconds at the top of the Main Street hill to honor the memory of George Floyd and countless other victims.
Originally from Iowa, protestor Ian Vencil has lived in Shelby for three years. He retired from the Marines four years ago.
“I live as a black man in America … my dad’s black and my mom’s white. I came out because I love Shelby,” Vencil said. “I’m here because I love my country, because everybody should get their fair shake.
“I’m also a Christian, and I believe Jesus Christ has made every person equal. We don’t choose where we were born and how we were born, we’re just given a hand and we have to play it.”
Shelby’s protest also drew a crowd from surrounding cities in Richland County, including Mary Page and her friends Sky Bister and Aaron Rodriguez from Mansfield.
“I wouldn’t feel like I am taking care of myself by not standing up for others,” Page said.
After marching, chanting and a moment of silence, the protestors began to disperse shortly after 5 p.m. Campo hoped that anyone who encountered their group took a moment to open their eyes to the injustices in the world.
“This town is more than what everyone thinks of it,” Campo said. “There’s a lot of people that came out to show support, and I’m very grateful for that.”