The peaceful protest in Marysville was one of many across the country in response to recent black deaths
Hundreds came out to Marysville's Jennings Park on June 11 to take part in a protest against racism in response to the recent deaths of black people in America.
Last month officers of a Minnesota Police Department detained a black man, 46-year-old George Floyd, who died after being restrained by police applying a knee to his neck.
The viral video that captured the incident has sparked outrage and protest across the country.
Marysville's protest was organized by local youth with support from the Marysville YMCA, the city of Marysville, the Marysville Tulalip Chamber of Commerce, the Tulalip Tribes and the Marysville School District.
"We're here to honor all our fallen sisters and brothers: George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Arbery Ahmaud," said Jenasis Lee, president of the Marysville Getchell High School Black Student Union and one of the organizers of the event.
Breonna Taylor and Arbery Ahmaud are two other black individuals in America who were killed in recent months.
"How many more of our people have to die in order for the world to see how much damage has already been done? We have reached a breaking point," she said.
RaeQuan Battle, a recent Marysville-Pilchuck High School graduate who currently attends the University of Washington, said it was hard to watch the video of George Floyd's death.
"Just being a 19-year-old and a Native American and an African American, it was heartbreaking to watch that eight-minute video," he said. "My heart really dropped and I just couldn't imagine being in that position.”
Battle said it was also difficult to talk about with his little brother.
"He sees that eight-minute video and he comes up to me and asks me what's happening. It sucks to explain to my 10-year-old brother that he could be in that position," he said.
Many showed up with 'Black Lives Matter' signs and shirts for the protest.
"What in our hundreds of years of history has not allowed us to think about black lives and how they matter," said JJ Frank, executive director of the Marysville YMCA and a local black man. "All the people here today saw that that was inhumane, saw that that life was not treated like a human being. Who could think he was a threat after he went motionless and that knee was on his neck for another three minutes.”
The problem goes beyond one area of the country and needs to be fixed everywhere, many said at the protest.
"I remember vividly a white girl telling me she didn't want to play with me on the playground because of the color of my skin," said Josiah Frank, co-president of the Marysville-Pilchuck High School Black Student Union and JJ Frank's son.
"As I grew up I had more encounters with racism in Marysville," he said. "It really lets you know that racism is not a southern issue, it's a nationwide issue that needs to be addressed and fixed immediately."
Students at the protest called for more black history to be taught in local schools.
"In my almost 12 years of schooling I have not learned one thing about my people in class," said Lee.
"My baby sister shouldn't have to deal with this … she shouldn't have to dig through the internet to find out that we are more than slaves, rappers, thugs. We are lawyers, doctors, teachers, mothers, fathers. George Floyd was somebody's son. Breonna Taylor was a first responder," she said.
J.J. Frank also wanted to be clear that the protest was not anti-cop and that his first job out of college was with the Everett Police Department.
"I've built my career with my career being about kids, cops and community," he said. "I have served with these men and women not only in the community but in the schools, but we can all recognize what we can do better.”
Many individuals from the Tulalip Tribes also came to support the protest and J.J. Frank wanted to recognize another group that has suffered historically.
"We can't talk about this particular moment if we're not willing to recognize the history of institutional and systemic racism with the genocide of our Native American brothers and sisters that are here," he said.
Local leaders also spoke at the protest and said that now is the time not only for listening, but for change.
"This march carries great meaning for all of us who desire to take a public stand against racism and to make real, meaningful change in this country's history of racism," said Marysville Mayor Jon Nehring. "We need to continue beyond this with listening and positive, proactive change.”
Nehring said that the Marysville police have begun a comprehensive study of their use of force.
Marysville School District Superintendent Jason Thompson also said leaders of local schools want to make change.
"This board and this superintendent are committed to stop racism in our schools. It is the time for action," he said.