Many residents and motorists in Homewood on Sunday could not miss the message in support of Black Lives Matter supporters. Several hundred demonstrators marched in a 4.2-mile loop, filling major thoroughfares from curb to curb for almost two hours.
The march, which started shortly after 3 p.m. and went to 5 p.m., traveled from Patriots Park east on 187th Street, north on Halsted Street, west on 183rd Street, south on Dixie Highway and east on 187th Street back to the park.
The event was organized by Tiki Brown, Asante Hays, Monique Austin and Ron Simon.
Before the march began, they supplied bottled water for marchers, most of whom were wearing face coverings to protect against the spread of COVID-19, and Brown set the ground rules.
“This is a peaceful protest. We will not tolerate any violence,” she said. “If we’re walking and you see someone trying to incite violence, call them out.”
Participants and on-lookers apparently heeded her words, as there were no confrontations along the way.
In fact, as marchers traveled down 183rd Street, residents from nearby homes came out to watch, clap, join chants and cheer. Although volunteers continued to distribute water, residents also brought coolers to the curb to hand out water bottles and snacks to marchers.
The crowd was encouraged periodically by Melvin Crawford, who winded a shofar at the beginning of the march and every few blocks along the way. Shofars are horns used for calls to battle or to celebration.
Homewood police provided an escort for marchers, with squad cars ahead of and behind the march to clear traffic.
Village Manager Jim Marino said the organizers had not contacted village officials to coordinate efforts, but based on the route published on social media sites, Homewood Public Works crews were able to get trucks in place to block side roads, limiting the possibility of traffic endangering marchers.
Before the march began, Brown and Austin delivered remarks to the crowd.
Brown said the march honored the many victims of police violence in recent years, including George Floyd, whose death on May 25 while in Minneapolis police custody sparked worldwide protests. She said Sunday’s event was an opportunity to remember people such as Brionna Taylor, Michael Brown, Laquan McDonald and others.
“We have to fight to enact change,” Brown said. “If we want to see anything done, we have to keep fighting.”
Austin urged the crowd to join in the chants along the way.
“I want to encourage you to let your voices be heard on this march,” she said. “I see people of all different shapes, sizes, ages and colors, and we’re all here today to fight in unity. Let’s be one today. The person you see next to you is your family. They are your equal.”
She also reminded the crowd that the protest was not only about the people who have died, but also those who deal with racism in their daily lives.
“We’re fighting for the people who are still alive who face inequality from day to day,” she said. “We’re fighting to finally be heard and finally be treated as humans.”
Two more protest events have been scheduled in Homewood in coming days, including Peaceful Homewood Vigil at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, June 13, in Irwin Park, and A Night for Our Fallen at 6 p.m. on Thursday, June 18, at Patriot Park.