As thousands marched through Old Town Scottsdale Sunday evening, united to protest police brutality against minorities, their chants echoed off the shops and restaurants that line Scottsdale Road and the surrounding area: “Say their names!” “No justice, no peace!” “I can’t breathe!”
That same day, Dion Johnson was shot and killed by a state trooper while sleeping in his car parked on the Loop 101 freeway. There has been little transparency from Phoenix Police Department, which is investigating the shooting, or the Arizona Department of Public Safety, and many questions remain about what happened that led an officer to shoot and kill the unarmed Johnson.
Armonee Jackson organized the event. She said the circumstances around his death tell her that black lives really don’t matter in Arizona – but she is determined for that to change.
Throughout the march, she called for justice for Johnson, Floyd and every other black life that has been taken by a police officer. As they marched, protesters held several moments of silence, including one for eight minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time Minneapolis police officer Devin Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Jackson asked protesters to imagine themselves in Floyd’s shoes, calling out for his mother – who died two years ago – and exclaiming, “I can’t breathe.” Then, she said, imagine being the 17-year-old girl filming the incident.
“Do y’all know how real this is?” she asked.
Elisa Gary teared up as Jackson spoke. She brought her children and her mother with her to protest because they have to be: to come back to the U.S. from serving in the military and for racism and police brutality to still be like this isn’t right, she said.
The crowd was so large, different chants rang in different areas. Olivia Baxter, a first-time protester, was one of the chant leaders. The 23-year-old law student said she was inspired to come out because she hopes to be an activist fighting for justice and equality around the world.
She said she took initiative to lead chants because, if no one is chanting, no one else will join in. This idea, she said, is why showing up to these protests and continuing a dialogue outside of them is important.
“The words that you have may influence others in a different way than someone else,” she said. “And because you speak out, they will too.”
***CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misidentified Armonee Jackson as Armonee Johnson.