A crowd gathered in Arlington's Legion Park on June 12 to protest against racism and for equal treatment for black people. The grassroots organized event brought together several hundred people who listened to speeches and marched up First Street.
The death of George Floyd while being detained by Minneapolis police officers has brought protests to all areas of the country, including Arlington. Many people said the recent protests are just the continuance of a long fight for civil rights. Arlington local Imani Jackson said her father remembers the protests from the '60s.
"He was alive to see the civil rights movement when he was a boy, and to see some of the same things in my time is something I thought would never happen," she said. "We are still fighting the same issues we were 50 years ago.”
Will Nelson, director of equity and student success at Arlington High School, and a member of the Blackfeet Nation, said that the video of Floyd affected many in the nation.
"Our African-American children and families experienced the trauma we saw and felt when a member of law enforcement, who is meant serve and protect us, murdered George Floyd," said Nelson.
Nelson advocated for reform of systems which continue to harm minority populations.
"We must get involved in reviewing public policies that perpetuate institutional racism, policies that perpetuate unaccountability, policies that perpetuate violence," he said.
"Lean into the conversation. It will get uncomfortable, but you have to do it," he said.
The protest was not against police in general though.
"We have an amazing police department who care about and protect our safety," said Nelson.
Many local black people talked about their experience growing up in Arlington.
"I am 22 and, aside from my college career, I have spent my entire life in this town," said Jayla Russ, who helped organize the event.
"Living in this town I have experienced countless subtle microaggressions [small commonplace indignities targeting minority groups] from classes to blatant profiling while out with my friends," she said. "We have the opportunity to make it easier going forward.”
Russ said when she was in first grade she put in cornrows like her father had.
"I remember many of my friends coming up to me asking if it was 'crazy hair day,'" she said. "This is one of the first time I realized I was different."
She hopes the community can become better at understanding and also advocated for better education.
"It was apparent that the education of my culture, my history was never fully taught. I had to learn the whitewashed version of history. I was taught that slavery didn't last that long when in fact it lasted 246 years," said Russ.
Gracie Castaneda, a Hispanic woman and a recent Arlington High School graduate, said she never learned about her roots or her history.
"I never learned about the issues with mass incarceration, the war on drugs, the school-to-prison pipeline, LGBTQ+ history, or the history of white supremacy in this country," she said. "I'm not saying that Arlington is a bad place filled with bad people, but I am saying we can do better and need to.”
Noah Jackson, a black man and also a recent Arlington High School graduate, said he appreciated everyone who came out.
"I want to thank everyone and thank this town. I had the mindset about how this would be but seeing everyone here as one is going to change the minds of others," he said.
He hopes this energy will move forward. "Not just today, but we have to continue this every day," he said.