A woman with a toddler strapped to her chest held a sign with the hashtag #Blacklivesmatter high above her head Sunday evening on the streets of Norfolk.
She was among almost 200 people who showed up for a Black Lives Matter unity protest that began at the intersection of Granby and West Brambleton.
The protesters, holding signs with messages such as “Prejudice is the child of ignorance” and “Silence promotes violence,” congregated around 9 p.m. to begin a 10-block march toward the Norfolk Circuit Court building at 150 St. Paul’s Blvd
“I believe in the power of my voice,” protester Antoinette Prescott said after the march. “I couldn’t sit back as an African American woman and not say anything — it was just too much. I was compelled to be here and bring my daughters so they can understand the power of their voice.”
The crowd of adults, teens and young children made their way down Granby Street and up Plume Street, chanting anthems like “Black Lives Matter” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”
The Norfolk protest was one of many in the Hampton Roads area Sunday night organized by the group Blacklivesmatter757. Supporters also gathered in Chesapeake, Newport News and Hampton. According to numerous media reports, protesters in Portsmouth marched onto Interstate 264, shutting the highway down for about half an hour.
Essence Sutton, who moved to Norfolk from Newport News a few weeks ago, said she attended Sunday’s protest in support of her younger brother. “I came out because I’m an older sister,” Sutton said after the march. “I feel like his future shouldn’t be threatened by the police officers who murder someone for no reason.”
The Norfolk Police Department said in an email that the department was “aware of the planned protest/demonstration, and worked closely with the community to ensure the event was peaceful.”
The department estimated there were about 200 participants in the Norfolk protest. The event was peaceful, with no arrests or incidents of violence.
Despite the violence that erupted during a protest in Dallas last Thursday night, with five law enforcement officers being shot and killed and several others wounded, Prescott said she’s more worried about her daughters being harmed on a typical day in Norfolk than she was about their safety during Sunday’s march.
As an example, Prescott cited the nervousness she felt recently when her daughter went on a date with a boy. “I wasn’t worried about the boy coming onto her,” Prescott said. “I was worried, what if they get pulled over by an overzealous cop? That was my actual fear instead of her being out here.”
Sunday’s march ended at the circuit court building, where several protesters spoke about the need to remain united and to overcoming violence.
When one man began singing “We Shall Overcome,” the rest of the crowd soon joined in.