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Monroe protest peaceful, youth driven
monroe protest 1
About 80 protesters sat quietly on the south side of the Historic Green County Courthouse June 5. The protest, a continuation of the national movement in wake of the police killing of George Floyd, a black man, was started by a pair of Monroe High School juniors that had hoped for a turnout of 15 people. - photo by Adam Krebs

MONROE — In the wake of the alleged police killing of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis, protests have risen up in many cities and communities across the country. On June 5, protests reached the Green County Courthouse on Monroe’s downtown Square.

While some protests around the country have turned into riots, Monroe’s protest was a nearly silent and peaceful affair.

Monroe High School juniors Cecily Burch and Jacie Hayes came up with the idea.

“Cecily and I saw a lot on social media about Black Lives Matter, and we decided we wanted to go further than just that. I wanted to go to a protest, and she said, ‘Why don’t we organize one in Monroe?’” Hayes said. “We organized a nice, silent protest — it was very peaceful. We made signs to memorialize some of the people that have been mistreated by cops and murdered. We wanted to bring awareness to that.”

The group protested from 5 to 7 p.m. throughout the weekend of June 5-7.

Hayes said on Friday a Monroe police officer asked how many people they were expecting, and she said “about 15.”

More than 80 people turned out that day, and about 120 came to show support on Saturday.

“I was incredibly impressed with the turnout,” Hayes said. “All of these people showed up and we were just blown away by their community support.”

Burch sewed face masks to help combat the spread of COVID-19, and 10 of her masks were emblazoned with Floyd’s final words while being held under the knee of now-fired police officer Derek Chauvin: “I can’t breathe.” Video footage shows the officer’s knee pressed into Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. For the last three minutes, Floyd was unresponsive.

“We just want people to know that even though these things aren’t happening in our community, they are still going on elsewhere,” Burch said.

Teachers, family members and local college students joined the protest in Monroe as did others in the community who caught wind of the event. Protesters sat on the south lawn of the courthouse wearing masks while holding signs that said “Black Lives Matter” or quoted the last words of other black men and women who have died at the hands of police officers over the past decade. 

I was incredibly impressed with the turnout. All of these people showed up and we were just blown away by their community support.
Jacie Hayes, Monroe junior and organizer of the protest

“Me and Jacie made all the signs,” Burch said. “People could bring their own signs if they wanted, but we told them they had to be respectful and appropriate.”

The protesters took a group photo at 7 p.m. and quietly dispersed afterward.

“It’s really heartwarming to see people that care and try to make a change,” said Taylor Jacobson, a biracial Monroe High School freshman. “I’m glad this didn’t turn into any sort of violence.”

Jacobson said her goal is simple: “All people are treated equally and are given the opportunity to do all the same things in life without having to worry about having their life taken from them.”

On Twitter earlier in the week, she posted a call to action.

“Something I hear too often living in a white area and going to a white school is ‘I don’t get into politics.’ But the systematic racism instilled into our society isn’t politics. The murdering of unarmed black people isn’t politics,” she wrote. “These injustices shouldn’t be looked at through the scope of right or left, but right or wrong. It must be understood that ‘not getting into politics’ is a PRIVILEGE … When you can choose what you care about and what you give your attention to because it doesn’t affect you, that is a PRIVILEGE. But when you have to wonder, ‘Is my brother next? Is my dad next? My uncle?’ you are given no other option than to get involved. White silence is violence.”

Editor's note: This story has been updated with added information.