Corvallis, Ore. residents took to the streets to support the nationwide protests to denounce racism, police brutality and recent police killings of African Americans in the United States on Saturday night.
Protestors gathered around city hall with signs in support and recognition of the Black Lives Matter movement, flashing the signs toward passing vehicles. Many drivers honked their horns and shook their fists as an act of solidarity for the group.
Activists could be seen chanting around the sidewalks of downtown Corvallis, eventually making their way to the local police station. Most chants were designed to remember the memory of George Floyd and highlight the perceived racial inequities seen throughout the country.
Floyd was killed by members of the Minneapolis Police Department earlier this week after attempting to make a purchase from a convenience store with a counterfeit $20 bill. Videos recorded by citizens at the scene rapidly circulated around the media, inciting national outrage.
Many of the signs highlighted tensions between marginalized communities and the police force. While these kinds of events have occurred before, the national attention around Floyd’s killing in Minneapolis has raised unprecedented awareness, inciting nationwide riots.
“I think we’re at a breaking point in seeing things that have happened. I’m really upset with the system and what it was founded on, and I’m worried about the people that I love,” said Corvallis resident Kendyl Walker.
The Oregon State University and greater Corvallis community experienced similar tensions late last year after Genesis Hansen, an African American student, was pulled over and subsequently arrested by an Oregon State Police officer for riding their bike on the wrong side of the road. The taping of this incident sparked anger amongst the community, citing this as another instance of racial profiling and excessive force. Soon after, OSP terminated its contract to provide campus law enforcement for OSU.
“The people being served by the police often aren’t the people facing the most amount of violence, and people facing violence can’t go to the police—they don’t have an option,” Walker said.
OSU graduate and Corvallis resident Mckenzie Akers said she felt like these protests were necessary to show solidarity with minority communities; many of the protestors were not African American, and shared similar sentiments.
“[Race relations in Corvallis] is easy for people to gloss over, because most of the people they see here look like them, they might not feel as motivated to stick up for these causes because it’s not affecting them on a personal level,” Akers said. “As a white female, my job is to listen and amplify other voices, and just educate myself on what’s going on.”
The protest was entirely peaceful in its nature, taking place over the course of two hours and involved around 50 protestors. There were few signs of involvement from law enforcement throughout the protest, limited to a single sheriff’s vehicle driving past the crowd.
A local vigil for Floyd is taking place at the Benton County courthouse at 6 p.m. Sunday, with a demonstration to follow. Protests will also be held daily at city hall in order to continue support for the movement.
“One of the only things I have as a college student is my voice. I don’t have money, I don’t have power, but I do have my voice, which in my opinion—it’s powerful. I think that with all of us combined, it makes a statement,” said August Cogdill, a second-year political science student. “It allows us to build a community that’s able to support each other and a bigger cause.”