Racial Justice: Progress beyond protests

Reporter: Breana Ross
Published: Updated:
Protesters took to the streets during the summer of 2020 to demand racial justice. (CREDIT: WINK News)

The summer of 2020 saw protests against police brutality and racial injustice as people demanded change in policing tactics after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Summer of 2020 is now part of Black History and American History alike. Black and white together marched with police officers in Collier County. Protesters also marched in Lee County.

Leaders of the movement say they’ve made progress, but there is a long way to go.

“I think that it reached a breaking point, that people just wanted to say ‘enough,'” said W. Earl Sparrow Jr., a community advocate. “We need to stop this. We need to talk about how the lives of Black people are invalued or not recognized as human.”

Chantel Rhodes, a community advocate, said she wanted Southwest Florida to rise up for truth, justice and equality.

The first thing that happened was the Robert E. Lee bust of the Confederate general came down.

“We wanted the Lee Bust down,” Sparrow said. “We wanted to get the police chief and the sheriff’s office to denounce the neck hold, the chokehold, those things.”

These things happened.

“We extended that olive branch to local law enforcement so that we could have those conversations and begin to bridge the divide because we may not be facing police brutality here, however, the divide remains,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes believes law enforcement needs to listen to the people they serve.

“We had those very tough conversations even with people who had very different views than the ones we held,” Rhodes said.

Sparrow said there have been discussions about what’s going on here, about how things should be going, how the community feels they are being overpoliced.

He hopes listening will lead to constructive conversations.

“If we talk together now, if we work together now … if we be proactive instead of reactive there won’t be any need for us to go to the streets,” Sparrow said.

Summer 2020 is now a part of Black History and Sparrow and Rhodes are proud to be part of it.

“I look back to that time and I want to be able to sit down and tell my grandkids and my great-grandkids that when it was time to step up and speak up I was one of those that did,” Sparrow said.

“The protest is an everyday protest. It’s about how you live. It’s about how you represent. It’s about how you challenge even in your day-to-day life,” Rhodes said.

Rhodes and members of Peaceful Protest Lee County said they will resume their meetings with law enforcement next month.

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