PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — Along Harrison Avenue on Saturday morning, over a hundred people marched from Bay High School to Mckenzie Park, celebrating Juneteenth.
“With everything going on in the world right now, it’s time to bring our community together,” said Chandler Strong, a Panama City resident and youth leader who helped to organize the event. He said it was more than just a march.
“I believe that Panama City can be the foundation of change for America,” he said.
Dozens of people came out from across the Panhandle, including Panama City city officials, to send a message.
“A lot of good things have happened but we want to keep the momentum going,” said Xavier McGill, a Freeport resident who came back to his hometown of Panama City to support the movement. “We have to come together, we have to unify if we want to see meaningful change.”
Several people said they were surprised at the high turnout for the event.
“Huge crowd out here this morning, really shocked,” McGill said. “Didn’t expect to see this many folks out here.”
“It really warmed my heart,” said “DJ Big Boi” David Barnes, a local radio host who also helped to organize the march. “It almost moved me to tears, it really did.”
Marchers finished the walk at Mckenzie Park, where speakers drove home their main point.
“We can definitely be that change,” said Barnes. “We can definitely set that tone and I think if we can just come together and set that tone, the world can hear it and the nation can hear it as well.”
Barnes said the change includes more accountability with law enforcement, starting with more open conversations.
“Let’s sit down and have a dialogue with the law enforcement,” he said. “Let them know what’s going on, let them know what we expect of them, our city leaders. We need to see what we expect of them and what they expect of us as well.”
Strong said Hurricane Michael taught some valuable lessons that should be applied now.
“When Hurricane Michael hit, it destroyed a lot but at the same time it brought us together,” he said. “I feel like the way we came together during Hurricane Michael, we should be able to come together all the time.”
“We’ll make a change, one day by one,” said Barnes.