JASPER, Texas (KTRE) - UPDATED: “We can’t breathe we can’t breathe,” the crowd chants.
A saying heard around the world, all in honor of George Floyd’s life.
Many people have been protesting for over a week now to stop police brutality and racial injustice, but for the people in Jasper, Texas-- it hits home.
“This city has already suffered injustice a decade or two before George Floyd. So, we wanted to honor that. But we also wanted to honor the death of James Byrd here in our own city,” protest organizer and congressional candidate Rashad Lewis said.
James Byrd Jr was a 49-year-old black man walking home from an anniversary dinner. He was picked up by three white men and driven to an isolated road where he was beaten up, spray painted, chained by his ankles, and dragged for three miles. His remains were dumped in-front of an African American church.
And over 20 years later, Jasper residents are still marching for racial equality. Lewis says he has seen improvement, but a lot more can be done.
“Today is actually the first steps to make the demands of what we think that we need, in order to go ahead and push that needle forward. If no one says nothing, then nobody does anything,” Lewis added. “So, this is what we are here for. It is the beginning of a new chapter within our city.”
Community members united and peacefully protested, holding black lives matter signs.
“Everybody has the right to protest and march and we are going to do it here in a very sensible way. Our main goal is to show that we are standing together as one,” Jasper county Sheriff, Mitchel Newman said.
The march for racial equality and social justice continues.
“To everybody here, showing courage. No matter where you are from, no matter your age and no matter your race. Being here today shows the courage that you want to push the needle forward,” Lewis explained.
“For me just being here, I want to show our support for our black community and for our brothers and sisters here in jasper. I here to stand with everybody across the country who has suffered at the hands of police brutality and the people who has lost family members,” Jasper County Democratic chairperson, Kristina Mathews expressed.
“A change is coming in Jasper, Texas. A change is coming in Minnesota and a change is coming into Washington,” longtime Jasper resident, Retha Ross-Thomas added.
They say the overall mission is to stand up for what is right.
“Everything that we are seeing today visual is not anything brand new. It is just that the world has a chance to see it worldwide,” Lewis said. "Today, we are standing to let people know that we are here and we are going to fight for injustice all over the world, especially back here in our own backyard.”
That peaceful demonstration lasted over an hour.
On Sunday, June 7th will mark 22 years since James Byrd Jr. was attacked by three white men in Jasper.
On Saturday morning, a group of East Texans gathered in Jasper for a protest.
The peaceful protest began at 10 a.m. on Wheeler Street in the town. Organizers created the protest to honor the memory of George Floyd, who died in Minnesota recently during an incident with a police officer who held his knee on Floyd’s neck until he stopped breathing.
The protest also was in memory of James Byrd, Jr. who died in Jasper in 1998 when dragged behind a vehicle.
KTRE’s T’Ebonie Tanner attended the rally and will bring the story to you on East Texas News Weekend.