Protests against racial injustice that started last week in Frederick continued through the weekend.
On Sunday, several dozen protesters gathered on Square Corner holding signs that read messages such as “Black Lives Matter” and “racism is a pandemic.” People walking and driving by honked and raised their fists in support.
The group was smaller than the approximately 100 people that met on Saturday and eventually had a standoff with police on East Street near Monocacy Boulevard. On Saturday, police and sheriff’s deputies blocked protestors from marching onto I-70.
Shortly after 7 p.m. Sunday, the protesters began marching through the streets and chanting. Frederick City Police followed behind and eventually blocked off roads. Around 8 p.m., the protesters arrived back on Square Corner. By 8:45 p.m., all roads were open again.
No arrests were made on either day.
Across the country, thousands of people in dozens of communities and cities continued to protest police brutality and the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin.
“We teach our kids as we grow up, one bad apple spoils the bunch, what makes it different from the cops,” said Aje Hill, a protest leader and executive director, president and founder of I Believe In Me Inc.
“So, if one cop kills an innocent black boy, every cop on the force, in my humble opinion, is under investigation because I can’t see what’s in their heart,” he said. “I don’t know what’s in their heart, so the only thing I can go back to is their trainings. So is their training something that gives them the indication that it’s OK to kill young black boys ... I don’t have a grudge. I don’t have any hatred on my heart for police, but the system trickles down all the way to make their job uncomfortable and they’re put in a very uncomfortable situation in this.”
Another protest is planned for Monday at the Frederick County Sheriff’s Department.
“We just want some answers,” Hill said, about what he called “systematic bureaucracy, dismantling the systems, defunding the police, whatever it takes to fix this inequality that’s been going on for over 400 years.”
He said Sheriff Chuck Jenkins holds some of those answers and they’re willing to go on his turf, on his terms, to get them.
As for further steps, Hill said one is conversation, “sitting down and making local council members listen to our fears, our concerns, our worries. Because if our worries are never heard, … there will never be any action taken behind them. So we want to sit at the table because if you’re not at the table, you’re on your menu and lately it seems like we’ve been on the menu.”
On Sunday before the march, Hill spoke about I Believe In Me, a nonprofit that focuses on “youth development and empowerment through mentorship,” according to their website.
“This time out here, we could be somewhere else,” Hill said. “We could be somewhere teaching these kids how to be young men, respect, consistency, integrity. But instead, we got to bring them out here to keep them aware of what’s going on in our community right now.”
He said he’s asked local and state police to talk to the kids, saying that oftentimes in black homes, “we’re taught ‘f the police,’” but that’s not right.
Hill said the way to “break that cycle” is to get police engaged with youth.
“We get the kids trained at being police officers,” he said. “We take the kids on interventions and show them they’re not the enemy. But sadly, I’ve asked for four years and not one police has ever came into my program and speak to these kids so it doesn’t show me that they want to make it better.”
Hill emphasized that he’s not alone.
“There’s Caucasians, there’s Latinos, there’s a lot of people that are feeling the wrath from this inequality and injustice, so to see the different diversities of people come out, it shows that everybody’s aligning with hope and making it better and coming up with a change rather than running away from it,” he said. “So that’s why we keep coming back.”
He also said they’re not “vigilantes” or “thugs.”
“We’re human beings begging to be treated equally,” he said. “We’ve been out here for six days, no injuries, no arrests. So, that speaks measures upon the purpose of this protest. We just want change, that’s all.”