Protesters in Volusia say they will continue to peacefully push for racial equality and justice.
BY ANDREAS BUTLER
The general election is over, but the fight for racial equality and justice continues.
Locally, there are ongoing Black Lives Matter and anti-racism protests.
Every Wednesday from 4 p.m. until dusk, a Black Lives Matter rally is held at the Grenada Bridge across from City Hall at the intersection of Grenada Boulevard and South Beach Street in Ormond Beach.
“We are a peaceful and silent civil rights movement. We are only here saying that Black Lives Matter and that we are against racism,” Jennifer Howard told the Daytona Times.
Protests in Ormond began on May 12 shortly after the killing of George Floyd.
“We’ve been here ever since. That is what kicked us off. A young man named Derrick Shultz actually kicked the first event off,” Howard stated.
Howard is part of Ormond Neighbors United, the group that organizes the event.
On Nov. 15, the final Black Lives Matter rally was held in New Smyrna Beach at State Road 44 and Old Mission Road. Protests were held on Sundays dating back to May 31.
“We have been peacefully protesting Black Lives Matter and racial justice for months, but now we won’t,” commented Shyriaka “Shy’’ Morris.
Morris is connected with the group Racial Justice for New Smyrna Beach, which organizes the protests. She is also president of the Southeast Volusia NAACP.
Concern over law
The New Smyrna protests will cease due to concerns over Governor Ron DeSantis’ proposed law that will allow alleged looters and rioters to be shot during possible protests.
Morris expressed, “We are concerned over that law. We are peaceful protesters, but we don’t want random people to take it upon themselves to be judge and jury on what we’re doing. Anybody can pop up to a protest and start trouble even though they aren’t with the protestors.”
Training, workshops sought
Protests in Ormond Beach will continue.
Howard stated, “We will continue to be here and protests for racial and social justice as long as needed. Racial injustice continues.”
In New Smyrna, activists are now taking different measures.
“We have started transitioning. We tried doing things simultaneously, but it was tough with
COVID-19,’’ Morris explained. “We have asked the city for a resolution not tolerating racial injustice in New Smyrna.
“We want sensitivity training and workshops on racial issues. We are working on an event to bring the community together. We are going to commission meetings discussing what we experienced during the protests.”
Protests in both cities focus on civil rights not politics.
“We don’t have any signs, banners or flags promoting Joe Biden or the Democratic party. We are not political. We only say Black Lives Matter and that we’re against racism,” Howard said.
Morris echoed, “We don’t either. We do not promote any political candidate, party or affiliation.”
Law enforcement has been kind at both sites. In Ormond, crowds got as big as 100 people while New Smyrna protests have crowds of 300.
“The police have been wonderful to us. They’ve been here since the Trump supporters came,” said David Waller, who attends the rallies in Ormond.
Morris added, “Yes, we have law enforcement on hand. We invited them. They have been fair.”
Both protests in Ormond and New Smyrna have been met with supporters of President Trump.
“The first three weeks we were on the news on different stations. Maybe they showed up to be on TV. We’re not sure. They have come from all over the place. Most aren’t from New Smyrna. They have been pretty rowdy,” said Morris.
Howard agreed. “It started pretty peaceful. Up until Aug. 12 or right around the primary election, we were here alone, then the Trump supporters showed up. We don’t know why.”
In Ormond back in August, an altercation broke out between a Black Lives Matter protester and a Trump supporter. James Casselman, a Trump supporter, was arrested and charged with punching a 17-year-old BLM protestor, which was published in the Ormond Beach Observer.
The Daytona Times also spoke to Trump supporters in Ormond on Nov. 11 who were out protesting.
Gary Alan Gray told the Times, “We are Trump supporters. We believe in America and … we are peaceful. We are not bothering anybody. They started the fight with us. We want to bring America together. We’ve got to stop listening to the media lying about everything and come together.”
Dedicated White women
Protests in both cities are usually comprised of older White women. On Nov 11. only two Black people showed up for the Ormond event.
“That is the norm. Mostly older White women are here. A lot are retirees. I’ve been asked where all the Black people are,” admitted Morris.
Waller added, “As you can see, that is what we mainly have. We liked to have more people but, unfortunately, people come when they think they can go viral. We had the pastors here a few times.
“We would like larger crowds, but the dedicated ones are here. Our crowds start off small, then get bigger a little after 5 p.m.”