Unity Walk is peaceful event in Garden City

Meghan Flynn
Unity Walk organizer Javez Baker-Hall (third from left) met with the Garden City Police Department to promote love, equality, and justice for those who took part in the event on Wednesday.

More than 1,000 people chanted phrases like “George Floyd,” “No justice, no peace,” “Silence is compliance,” during a unity walk Wednesday night at Stevens Park in Garden City.

Speakers at the event encouraged the crowd to “stand up” in unity with the community to speak out against racism, inequality and injustice.

Carmen Robinson, one of the event organizers, said the walk originally began as a protest in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.

“I thought to myself ‘what if that was my family member?’ That could have been anybody of the black community that I love,” she said.

Robinson said she wanted to show that little towns do matter in worldwide issues such as racism, inequality and injustice; it’s not just large cities.

“It’s everybody,” she said. “This is the one time we’re actually moving things, we’re changing things, so little towns do matter when it comes to fighting for our rights.”

A lot of people were against the idea of a protest, Robinson said. She wanted it to be as safe as possible.

“I wanted families to come out and see the movement, not just us older people,” she said. “I wanted the elders to come and feel safe to fight for what they believe is right.”

In planning the event, Robinson got Javez Baker-Hall involved, as well as the Garden City Police Department.

Baker-Hall said he reached out to the police department not for them to stand side-by-side with them, but for them to “comprehend what’s going on in this world and they can sit down and listen to us rather than being against us and not comprehending anything we’re saying to them.”

GCPD chief Michael Utz said he wanted to meet with Robinson and Baker-Hall after hearing the rumors of a protest.

They’ve met with rally or protest organizers in the past, Utz said. Their goal is to make sure the event is as peaceful as possible.

Through discussion at the meeting, Robinson and Baker-Hall made the decision to change it from a protest to a unity walk, Utz said.

“Their intentions were nothing more than to make sure this was peaceful because we wanted to respect their constitutional rights and First Amendment, freedom of speech and freedom to get together,” he said.

Utz said they were glad to meet and speak with them, to find out what they needed from the police and was glad to come participate and “be here in unity to show out support for the cause.”

“As chief of police I was appalled, I was taken aback ... at what I saw (happen to Floyd),” he said. “What happened in Minneapolis, it does not align with my professional values, does not align with the police department’s values on how to treat individuals. It does not even align with our trade.”

Baker-Hall said when he found out about Floyd’s death, he wanted to burn the country down, but didn’t because he knew he had to set an example for the younger generation.

“I know that I’m only 24 and we’re all young out here, but we have kids, I have two sons myself, and I don’t want my sons to live in violence, in a violent world like this,” he said.