“I can’t breathe,” were the words said by George Floyd as Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin killed him on May 25 were also the phrase chanted by 200 upset protesters. A video, viewed by millions, of George Floyd being killed by a police officer is what encouraged people to go out and make a change.
Three former students decided they’d get involved and try to make some change. Payton McHenry, Aubin Robinson and Rachel Galante have participated in protests and witnessed the events at the front lines.
“It was infuriating,” 2019 graduate Payton McHenry said. “It’s so highly frustrating having to constantly watch someone who looks just like me, or my cousin, my grandfather, cousin, etc. die on camera because someone with authority hated them for the way they looked and tries to justify their actions by creating a narrative of that victim.”
McHenry, along with her boyfriend, Aubin Robinson, were among others at the Southlake Mall protest that turned violent on May 31st. Robinson explains that for the most part, the protest was peaceful but escalated once police officers began saying it was over and everyone had to leave.
“Once this situation escalated with the police the rest of the protesters got uneasy and the police began to throw smoke bombs and mace protesters,” Robinson said. “They will try and send the protesters home, but the protesters won’t leave, so then the police use force to end it.”
Rachel Galante, 2015 graduate, organized several protests around Merrillville. Galante has participated with protests in Michigan City, Gary, Schererville, Portage, St. John, Valparaiso, and Washington D.C.
“Sadly the media will show 1 violent protest 100 times before they show 100 peaceful ones once,” she said.
Although the protest at South Lake turned out to be violent, Galante wanted to make sure that wouldn’t happen with the protest she was organizing. She planned a meeting with the police chief and his assistant to ensure everyone’s safety.
“We hope to be involved with them in the future so we can promote change for our community,” Galante explained.
Galante also was in Washington D.C. on the anniversary of the March on Washington. She was there along with 100,000 others.
“To stand in a place for a march that I had learned about all throughout school and experience it myself was incredible,” Galante said.
Galante continues to show the black community that they’re constantly being supported and appreciated.
“We want the world to be a better place and that starts at home by working to make our own community safe,” she said.
While being in the front lines of the march may be dangerous, it may also be empowering and eye-opening.
“Though I wish we learned more about ourselves, knowing what we do know and getting to be a part of something just like it,” McHenry said. “It makes you feel like you’re also a part of our history.”