More than a thousand people marched from downtown Charlottesville to the University of Virginia on Sunday evening to demand justice and affirm that black lives matter.
The marchers filled most of the length of West Main Street as they walked from the Free Speech Monument on the Downtown Mall to the steps of the Rotunda.
The crowd stretched so far that chants of “black lives matter” and “I can’t breathe” could be heard at the same time.
The diverse crowd spanned ages and races, with virtually the entire group clad with masks due to the coronavirus pandemic. Along the way, people on West Main sidewalks handed out water bottles to protesters.
Handmade signs bearing “black lives matter,” “defund the police” and the names of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor dotted the crowd.
A small police presence blocked off intersections along West Main Street, keeping their distance from protesters.
The march was led by UVa students Tyler Tinsley and Joshua St. Hill, who, upon reaching the Rotunda, urged the crowd to keep pushing for police accountability even after “BLM” is no longer trending online.
“We are the same kids that were raised under the first black president, but that doesn’t mean we live in a post-racial society,” St. Hill said. “We are the same kids that saw Trayvon Martin get murdered and saw no justice come from that.”
The Rev. Don Gathers also spoke, saying, “this is a march led by young people.”
“When things go wrong, we show up and we show out that this is Charlottesville,” Gathers said. “It’s just sad that we continue to have to gather this way, that things have continued not to change.”
Gathers then led the crowd in taking a knee for approximately eight seconds to commemorate the eight minutes and 46 seconds then-Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck.
For more than a half hour, various march participants were invited to share, via megaphone, their messages and experiences at the hands of racism.
Several speakers urged protesters to support removing Confederate monuments, which they said represent white supremacist views.
After taking another knee, this time for the full eight minutes and 46 seconds, many of the protesters started to disperse as a few people continued to publicly share their experiences.
According to Tyler Hawn, spokesman for the Charlottesville Police Department, no arrests had been made as of 8 p.m. Sunday.
“Everyone has expressed their civil discourse peacefully,” Hawn said.