Marshaled by a phalanx of riders from Tha Pack Motorcycle Club, Rosia Parker and Katrina Turner led 30 marchers and a media entourage down Charlottesville streets Friday afternoon, calling for justice and equality in defiance of city officials.
Holding a banner, they shouted chants over bullhorns on the two-hour march that started in front of the Charlottesville Police Department, stopped at the intersection of McIntire Road and Preston Avenue and continued up Preston to Fifth Street, ending at Tonsler Park.
The organizers noted the small turnout compared to past marches in the city and called out city officials for a Thursday evening warning that organizers of events “obstructing city streets and using parks without the proper permits will no longer be allowed.”
“I will not let the city shut me down,” Parker called out at the march’s start. “I will not let the city shut me up. These are our streets. We will not back down. Black lives matter!”
The march started slowly, with about two dozen marchers and a dozen photographers, videographers and reporters darting in and out of the main group. When the group stopped, Parker and Turner addressed the throng, talking of their lives, their fight for equality and the lives of others in the community.
“We are still in the same battle today,” Parker said, referring to the civil rights movements of the past. “A lot of people say they’re fighting, but they’re not. A lot of people want to join the fight, but they don’t know how. We need to teach our babies to fight but we need to teach them why and what they are fighting for.”
She said the size of the group didn’t matter.
“There doesn’t have to be a lot of us. Even a small amount can be a strong amount,” she said.
As it moved, the group attracted more marchers, some of whom proved disruptive. When the group stopped at McIntire and Preston, they were joined by members of the Fluvanna-based motorcycle club and the disruptions ceased.
The bikers set about blocking intersections in front of the group while members of the Charlottesville Police Department motorcycle squad rode ahead to block intersections farther away.
The motorcycle officers, along with a Charlottesville Public Works dump truck and officers in cruisers, worked to limit traffic around the group.
Tha Pack’s motorcycles and riders attracted attention as the group walked on, gathering more marchers.
“This is what we do,” said club rider ‘Li’l Bizz,’ who saw the march and contacted his club colleagues to join. “We are about getting involved in our community, doing things for people. [Parker] was like a second mother, a grandmother to me when I was growing up. She’s like a mother for the whole street. We’re doing this for her.”
Turner and Parker said they were aware of a release sent out Thursday night by Charlottesville officials warning that city ordinances passed to slow the spread of COVID-19 would be enforced.
Those include a temporary halt to issuing special events permits, mandatory face coverings and no gatherings of larger than 50 people.
“Over the last three months, large crowds gathered in both Washington Park and Market Street Park,” City Manager Tarron Richardson wrote in the Thursday release. “These gatherings have obstructed nearby public streets and intersections. While the City of Charlottesville has supported the community’s right to peaceably assemble, obstructing city streets and using parks without the proper permits will no longer be allowed.”
Richardson said the non-permitted events “come at considerable cost” to the city and that he will issue citations to event organizers who use parks without a special event permit. He noted that, in response to the pandemic, the city has temporarily ceased issuing special event permits.
He also noted that Friday’s march had not been permitted.
“Moving forward, those who commit violations of state law and/or city ordinance, such as obstructing or blocking traffic, COVID restrictions, or any other violation will be charged accordingly,” Richardson wrote.
On Friday, as the marchers made their way toward Tonsler Park, Richardson sent a letter to the organizer of a June 19 Juneteenth Celebration held in Washington Park notifying him of the $500 fine. The letter noted that the organizer had agreed in June to pay the civil penalty rather than cancel the event.
At the park, Turner and Parker said several volunteers had backed out of the march after Richardson’s statement, including one person who had offered to provide food for marchers once they reached their goal.
“Don’t worry, though. We have food for you,” Turner told the estimated 40 participants. “I spent all day cooking for you. I hope there’s enough.”