‘Get out of your house and into the streets’: Kent State students, alumni present at Black Lives Matter protests

Protesters march down the streets in Clayton, Missouri on Saturday, May 30, 2020. 

“Get out of your house and into the streets,” chanted Arkayla Tenney-Howard, Kent State alumna, along with other protesters as they marched through the streets of Clayton, Missouri. 

Throughout the country, protests in response to the death of George Floyd have continued throughout the week, with the numbers of protests increasing over the weekend. Floyd, a black man, was killed in police custody after a white police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 10 minutes. 

Tenney-Howard began participating in the protests on Saturday, attending one in Clayton, Missouri in the afternoon and one in Ferguson, Missouri at night. 

In Clayton, protesters shut down the exit ramps from the highway and marched throughout Clayton. Stores were closed due to the crowds. 

“I think that that’s what we need to do, we need to disrupt their lives until they care,” Tenney-Howard said. 

As they marched, they walked by people standing in their doorways of their homes watching, but most did not join in with the protesters. 

In Ferguson, the protesters would chant to people in their cars, telling them to get out and stand with them. Car doors opened, and many observers then stood beside the protesters, joining in. 

Tensions grew in Ferguson, due to the death of unarmed, black, 18-year-old, Micheal Brown back in 2014. 

As protesters began shooting fireworks and throwing water bottles, police responded with tear gas and rubber bullets.

“I saw people crying,” Tenney-Howard said. “I saw people getting shot with rubber bullets and it was the most disheartening, overwhelming and angering scene I’ve ever been around.”

As protesters were injured, she was ready to help with a bottle of baking soda and water, known to help with tear gas. 

As she coughed, her eyes burning, her body sore, she continued to help clear the faces of those who couldn’t see due to the tear gas. She held the hands of those crying from the pain, waiting until they could see and breathe again. 

In Minneapolis, Carter Adams, a recent Kent State journalism graduate, and Mikey Indriolo, a journalism and digital media production senior, went to cover the continuing protests.

The two, plus one other journalist, went to cover a demonstration near the fifth precinct in Minneapolis, with approximately 500 people and just as many police officers. 

“Yesterday definitely was really eye opening compared to a lot of coverage that I had been seeing and hearing,” Indriolo said. 

The police immediately started to toss tear gas, concussion grenades and fire rubber bullets toward all of the protesters. 

A group of medics, set up in a tent, was raided by the police. 

This tent, filled with bandages, supplies to help with tear gas and pepper spray, and people ready to take others to the hospital, was destroyed. 

Adams kept a medic kit with him last night, and while they were walking back to their cars, three men ran up to them screaming for help. They told the journalists that they were not a part of the protests but were injured. 

One of them had been shot by a rubber bullet in the hand, smashing one of his fingers almost to the point of his finger falling off. Adams said the wound was consistent with being hit from a close range. 

“I’ve never seen anything like this in particular with the excessive police violence, the torching of the buildings and things of that sort,” Adams said. 

Different outside agitators were often the ones that were encouraging the riots, with the burning of buildings, the looting and more violence. 

“Some people are trying to incite a riot, other organizers are trying to quell a riot,” Adams said. “You have people trying to burn down the Arby’s and then you have people bringing a water hose to try and put it out.”

As the current coronavirus pandemic continues on, many have been stuck in quarantine. As they are without a job, these protests quickly became their main focus. It has allowed for these protests to continue on longer than in the past, along with people being able to travel from out of state.  

“For me personally, there were definitely a lot of feelings of being powerless or not able to do anything that were kind of building up,” Indriolo said. 

Surrounding communities have been responsive with self-defense, putting up roadblocks from potentially violent protesters. As many stand in support, they continue to protect their families and homes. 

As tear gas was released, both Adams and Indriolo were lucky enough to have respirators, but once they took those off, they could feel the burning in their lungs and it was hard to breathe. 

“Even if I didn’t want to do this, I wouldn’t be able to,” Indriolo said. “It’s hard to explain, but it feels like something that I have to do.” 

Protests have continued throughout the weekend and are planned to continue throughout the next coming days. Protesters continue to stand up for what they believe in, what they believe is right and what needs to happen after the death of George Floyd. 

“Peaceful protesting obviously didn’t work, didn’t get any messages across,” Adams said. “And as Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Riot is the voice of the unheard,’ so that’s where we’re at right now.” 

Sara Crawford is the managing editor. Contact her at [email protected]