Demonstrators gathered in Pine City Wednesday to protest the death of George Floyd and racism. Floyd was killed while in police custody on May 25, and the waves of the civil unrest that followed made their way some 60 plus miles north to the corner of 8th Ave. SE and Main St.
The peaceful protest was organized by Cordell Major who saw the protests in the Twin Cities and felt the urge to organize a demonstration at the local level.
"You see protests on the news and on social media, but until you are apart of one, I feel it really doesn't hit you the same," Major told WCMP. "This is how change happens. There is no other way to go about it. Why not start at the local level."
Major worked with Riley Palmer to organize the event. The pair worked to gather supplies for signs, water bottles for attendees, and made contact with the Pine County Sheriff's Office to make sure everyone was on the same page.
The protesters who gathered at the four-way stop were greeted with a pamphlet that outlined why they were there and what was expected for them.
The following was printed in bold letters on the back:
"It is very important that this assembly remains peaceful. We want to have the most positive impact possible on our community; if we respond to negativity or violence with more negativity, nothing will be solved and our voices will be discredited."
The document went onto tell protesters to stay out of the road, do not physically engage with anyone who confronts them, no hate speech, and be respectful. Any violation of those rules would result in being asked to leave.
The organization done by Major and Palmer brought praise from Sheriff Jeff Nelson.
"He really did a great job of organizing it and setting some ground rules that the people there abided to - it went off without a hitch," said Nelson.
While talking to protesters, it was important to many that their message was heard in Pine City.
"It has always felt so far away, especially being in such a small community that is predominantly white with very little minorities," said Riley Palmer. "Our main goal is to raise awareness because change will not happen if we don't have conversations."
While talking to Cordell Major, the 20-year-old mentioned that he has experienced racism while growing up as one of the few people of color in Pine City. He said he's been called the "n-word" by former classmates.
"People don't think it's (racism) here, but it is. If you drive down Cross Lake Rd., there's a house with a Confederate flag on its flag pole," said Major.
Others felt that attending was a civic duty.
"I want my kids to know that I did something right at the time when it was needed," the protester said.
Another protester was there for more personal reasons.
"My daughter is affected in her daily life because of being biracial. People see her blackness more than her character or her content, and that is not ok with me," the demonstrator told WCMP. "She is a valuable member of our family and to society. She has a purpose. Every life has a purpose, but black lives are under attack, and that is not ok."
The event stayed peaceful despite a few angry shouts from passing cars. Those gathered chanted "Black Lives Matter" and the name of George Floyd, and demonstrators were mostly met with supportive honks and waves from cars stopped at the intersection.