Photo by Dermot Connolly
A peaceful protest march organized by 2020 Shepard High School graduates in remembrance of George Floyd and others makes its way south on Ridgeland Avenue from 127th Street to the school at 13049 S. Ridgeland Ave., Palos Heights, last Thursday.
By Dermot Connolly
Recent graduates of Shepard High School organized a peaceful protest against police violence last Thursday outside the school at 13049 S. Ridgeland Ave., in Palos Heights.
Several hundred people of all ages gathered at 1 p.m. for a brief rally before marching north on Ridgeland Avenue to 127 th Street and back to the school.
Palos Heights police closed off Ridgeland between 127 th and 131 st Street to allow the event to go ahead, and they looked on as the marchers chanted “Black Lives Matter,” “I Can’t Breathe,” and other slogans that have become familiar at similar protests being held around the country since Floyd died when a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds on May 25, Memorial Day.
Participants ranged from parents pushing children in strollers to people in their 60s and 70s, with many of high school and college age.
After returning to the school grounds, march participants knelt in silence for that length of time while march organizers Lavontae Morrow, Nancy Nguyen and Alyssa Bell took turns reading out 96 names of people who have died at the hands of police since 1972. Trayvon Martin, a teenager who was killed in Florida by a member of a civilian neighborhood patrol, was included in the group.
Morrow, Nguyen and Bell all graduated from Shepard this year.
“ This is not just a black and white issue. It affects everybody,” said Nguyen, a Worth resident. She encouraged participants to continue going to protests, “and above all, vote.”
“ It is very appreciative to see all the different nationalities here. African Americans have been executed since 1972 (in circumstances like this) but we are all one race. We all love one another,” said Bell.
“ Keep spreading the word about this movement. This is how we are going to end this injustice. We still have towers to climb but give yourselves a pat on the back for coming out today,” said Morrow.
Rebeca and Amos Lungu, a sister and brother from Palos Hills, were among the participants who were at their first march.
“ I wanted to get involved and when I saw it was going to be here, I said we need to go,” said Rebeca, a graduate of Stagg High School.
“ It is a very important issue for us,” said Amos, who is going into his junior year at Stagg.
Shepard Principal Gregory Walder was at the protest as well, and congratulated the student organizers and participants afterward.
“ I was a bit nervous when I heard about it at first. But I am very proud of my students for doing this. They handled everything so well, as they always do,” he said.