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Protests reached into three Fort Worth businesses yesterday. Photo by Edward Brown.

Tarrant County Courthouse has become the de facto gathering point for daily marches that began May 29 as a response to the killing of George Floyd, a black man, by a white police officer as three nearby officers watched. Early yesterday evening, a long line sprawled across the front of the courthouse as locals signed three petitions. 

As promised the day before (“Sunday Protest Targets the North Side,” June 8), protest organizers were collecting signatures to fulfill three demands: funding for a new mental health facility as part of a jail diversion program, the demilitarization of the Fort Worth police department, and the removal of all police from Fort Worth and Crowley school districts. 

Various factions have emerged as leaders of the protest marches. Donnell Ballard told me that his group, United My Justice, was not associated with last night’s march. He expressed concerns about the tactics used in Monday’s march, which included bringing protests inside three Fort Worth businesses. 

Early yesterday evening, a long line sprawled across the front of the courthouse as locals signed three petitions.
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Once the petition drive ended, the protesters marched west toward the West 7th corridor. After crossing the West 7th Bridge, the marchers stopped to sit for eight minutes and 40 seconds — the length of time a white officer pressed his knee against an asphyxiated Floyd.

“Imagine, a knee is on your neck,” a protester organizer said as marchers sat in silence, some praying, others sobbing. “We still have four minutes to go. Imagine what this man went through, asking for breath and calling for his mama. Imagine if you really had someone’s knee on your neck for that long. Defenseless. What would you do? We still can’t breathe. Guess what? When the eight minutes ends, his life is over with. We can march again, but he didn’t get to. Imagine dying slowly at the hands of an institution that is supposed to protect you.” 

As the march passed through Montgomery Plaza, a middle-aged white man standing in BoomerJack’s Grill & Bar rebuked the protesters with shouts of “All lives matter!” The protesters gathered around to drown him and chanted, “Black lives matter!” As I was told by a protester who was closer to the scene, BoomerJack’s management asked him to pay and leave.

The protesters then marched through the nearby Target Superstore before reaching the intersection of Currie and Crockett streets. The protesters then marched inside the Concrete Cowboy Bar for several minutes before going to nearby Social House, where boisterous chants of “Fuck your peace!” were met politely by restaurant staff. After several minutes, the groups tried to enter Your Mom’s House, the West 7th bar where a white bartender mocked former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick in February (“Kaep Flap at Your Mom’s House,” February 5).

One march organizer who goes by BLACK told the protesters that the evening was meant to show business owners that the protest movement loves justice and freedom as much as the business owners love the status quo. Fort Worth has tried to gain equality and racial justice through peace, and those efforts have not delivered reform, he said. 

After crossing the West 7th Bridge, the marchers stopped to sit for eight minutes and 40 seconds — the length of time a white officer pressed his knee against an asphyxiated Floyd.

“I don’t support that group,” United My Justice’s Ballard said. “What they did was wrong. We all have a right to protest. What they did, going inside a business, I don’t think that’s the proper thing to do. The direction that this group is going, that’s not the direction United My Justice is going. United My Justice has been about peaceful protest. This other group that has been protesting on West 7th Street, I don’t agree with their approach to protesting. That’s not who we are.” 

Ballard said anyone who is interested in marching with his group can follow “United My Justice” on Facebook. The group will be meeting downtown at the Fort Worth Water Gardens (1502 Commerce St) at 6 p.m. tonight for a march that may include the Near Southside.

Yesterday, Fort Worth Police Chief Ed Kraus said that all charges have been dropped against protesters who were arrested last week. 

 

1 COMMENT

  1. I promise Mr. Ballard that it was not the peacefulness of the protest that forced Chief Kraus to drop those charges. It will not be peacefulness that will bring justice. While I respect Mr. Ballard and his organization, I must disagree with his approach. Radical protest and peaceful protest are not mutually exclusive. We can be nonviolent while disturbing the peace that business owners and the Fort Worth machine enjoy.

    It will take much more than raising awareness to affect the change we need.

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