Sitting in a loose semi-circle in a gazebo overlooking Baker Park, Amiyah Spencer, Alijah Gee, Gabrael Moore, and Isaiah Spencer checked off last-minute items Wednesday evening before they plan to march through Frederick Friday afternoon.
The organizers of the Frederick March for Justice are expected to bring thousands, to the streets of downtown to protest police brutality.
They're not releasing the route of the march, but have coordinated with the city and the police department, with Mayor Michael O'Connor planning to be among those joining the marchers, said Akiyyah Billups, another of the event's organizers.
Billups declined to provide her age, but laughingly described herself as the “adult supervision," referring to the young ages of Amiyah Spencer, 16; Gee, 22; Moore, 18; and Isaiah Spencer, 18.
Frederick officials are also planning for large crowds downtown Friday as part of a march to protest police brutality.
The Frederick March for Justice will lead to street closures and other changes, as the city coordinates with organizers of the event
The protest comes at the end of a week that has seen events across the country in the wake of the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis. One officer has been charged with second-degree murder in Floyd's death, while several others have been charged as accessories to murder.
Several smaller protests and events have been held in downtown Frederick throughout the week.
While some protests in other cities have also included looting or vandalism, the organizers of the Frederick event are confident their event will not.
“We intend for this to be as peaceful as possible,” Amiyah Spencer said.
Temporary road closures are expected on All Saints Street, Market Street, and 2nd Street, according to a city release Thursday. The release noted that other street closures may be necessary, and will be announced as applicable.
Parking will be prohibited on Market Street between All Saints Street and 3rd Street beginning at noon on Friday.
The Frederick event has drawn significant interest on Facebook and other social media, with several thousand planning on attending or interested.
Friday's event is scheduled to begin at Mullinex Park at 5 p.m. Friday and move through the streets of downtown to Baker Park. Participants are urged to arrive by 4:30, and masks are required for the event.
Billups said they'll have security on the march who can coordinate with law enforcement to handle any illegal or violent behavior.
“We are here to make a peaceful protest,” she said.
O'Connor said Wednesday that police are planning for the march, and haven't confirmed any reports of outside groups participating.
“The Frederick Police Department is aligning its officer resources to ensure the welfare of all residents during the demonstration and will be supporting the First Amendment liberties of our demonstrators,” O'Connor said.
“A Breaking Point”
The video of Floyd's death – with officer Derek Chauvin kneeling with his knee on Floyd's neck for more than eight minutes – was shocking, the group organizing the March for Justice said.
“It was a breaking point for all of us,” said Isaiah Spencer, a student at Frederick Community College.
They see it as a chance for a younger generation of activists to take action and make their voices heard.
There has to be a line where right and wrong are evidently clear, said Amiyah Spencer, a rising junior at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School.
“We want to be looked at as people,” she said.
Floyd's daughter, 6, is going to have to grow up seeing the video of her father's death, she said.
Her generation has grown up on social media, and is used to platforms where they can debate, argue, and get feedback, she said.
The group also discussed a recent event captured on video, in which Amy Cooper, a white woman in New York City's Central Park called the police on a black man after he asked her to put her dog on a leash, as required by the rules in that part of the park.
People have to understand the repercussions for people of color of having the police called on them, said Gee, a recent Bowie State University graduate.
“When they come, they come with their guns drawn,” she said. “They assume that we're a threat just because 911 was called.”
The unrest around the country is happening because police haven't been held accountable for their actions, she said.
“If police want to mend this broken relationship, they need to be held accountable,” she said.
The group will evaluate the situation after Friday's protest, but plan to stay active.
They'll form committees to figure out where they go from here.
“We're past equality. We want justice,” Billups said.