Southern Oregon protestors organized on the streets of Ashland in support of those demonstrating against a grand jury decision last week not to try a white police officer who shot and killed an unarmed black man in Fergusen, Missouri. Protests have continued around the nation since the decision and Ashland residents decided to join the movement when a large group of students and community members marched down both sides of Siskiyou Boulevard towards the downtown plaza with their hands held high. Chants and cheers emerging from the group could be heard in the neighborhoods on both sides of the town.
“No Justice,” a woman called out into a megaphone trailing the group.
“No Peace!” the protesters answered back.
Violent protests have been a theme around the country since Darren Wilson of the Ferguson Missouri police department was found not guilty in the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown on November 25th.
The protesters of mixed gender and races shared their message peacefully but vocally. All carried home made signs or held their hands in the air as they headed down Ashland’s busiest street.
“If you understand why we are angry, if you know what is going on then you need to join us!” the woman in back called out.
Two police cars watched from the Safeway shopping center as the groups merged lawfully, crossing in the crosswalk at the intersection of Siskiyou and Sherman Street to form one line opposite the squad cars.
Deputy Chief Corey Falls of the Ashland police department who is also the Jackson County Sheriff elect told reporters that there had been multiple reports shortly after the group began marching but regular patrol would continue.
“Anyone has a right be to heard peacefully,” the Sheriff said.
Cars passing through the downtown area honked to show support once the protesters reached their final destination. Two males stood elevated on a retaining wall and addressed the supporters in the middle on the plaza.
“Thank you so much for showing your support,” the first man said, “we need to keep these messages that are written on our signs in our hearts,”
The commotion in the usually quiet area drew curious citizens to the growing crowd. Though the original members were fierce in their message, they were welcoming to onlookers and encouraged them to join in.
One man passing by in between speakers yelled, “Punch a white cop in the face,” before hurriedly crossing the street.
Collectively the crowd answered, “No!”
The woman who had originally lead the crowd vocally down Siskiyou then began chanting, “Change not violence, Change not violence” and the rest of the crowd followed suit.
The final speaker with the megaphone was Isaac Sanstad, head of the Black Student Union at Southern Oregon University who thanked everyone and said, “peaceful protests are the first step towards change.”
He then invited anyone in the crowd or in the community to attend the groups meetings where they would talk about this and other issues in room 301 of Student Union on Mondays at 6pm.