The People of Sylva had their voices heard on Saturday, June 13th. Hundreds of citizens gathered in downtown Sylva to show their support for more regulation to prevent the abuse of power by law enforcement. They also called for more transparency of police departments. Citizens marched down Main Street chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for George Floyd”. The protest on Saturday is the third protest to occur in Sylva in the past three weeks. Protestors were well prepared for protesting in a pandemic, as the overwhelming majority wore face masks. The Sylva Police Department was very helpful, setting up roadblocks to make way for the march and even unlocking some public bathrooms for the participants to use.
After the march participants gathered in Bridge Park and heard several speeches. The Jackson County Democratic Party provided microphones and speakers. The Party for Socialism and Liberation provided a medic station and a free water station. Speakers called for civil action to change the current justice system. Some speakers called for more radical action. For example, some speeches called for the abolishment of capitalism as the speaker argued that systematic racism will never go away until capitalism is abolished. Some speakers encouraged the audience to research radical movements, such as the Haitian Revolution. Most of the protestors appeared to be moderate and didn’t fully support radical notions. However, they were willing to listen to new ideas.
There were a few counter-protestors. They were not very vocal; however, they did display their message by driving by in trucks and motorcycles with large Confederate Army flags flying from the backs of their vehicles. These counter protesters revved their engines when they drove by the BLM demonstration. Despite all this the protest was peaceful and there was no violence.
One BLM protestor appeared to call for violence as she claimed, “Peaceful protest won’t save my black daughter’s life!”. She was pulled aside, however, and some the other BLM protesters listened to her. They later convinced her to use the microphone and explain what she was calling for. She later noted that she wasn’t necessarily calling for violence, but she believed that there needs to be more radical action needed to effectively change the system.
It is important to remember that although radical action can change things for the better, it is very unpredictable. Radical action sometimes creates a new system that is more unjust than the previous system. Therefore it is important to be active in a democratic system. Democracy is the slow process of coming up with the right solution compared to going straight to the wrong decision. Politics requires careful decision making. There is nothing wrong with radical ideas. However, it is important to know exactly what changes should be made before tearing down the current system. Apathy kills democracy. For a healthy and just democracy to survive, a well-informed voter base is necessary.