Walton County peaceful protest draws hundreds for Black Lives Matter

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DEFUNIAK SPRINGS, Fla. (WMBB) — On Sunday, hundreds gathered at Harbeson Field in DeFuniak Springs in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

Rumors that ran through the city of this protest potentially turning violent were put to rest as protesters peacefully marched through the city to show their dissatisfaction with racial inequality and police brutality in America.

DeFuniak Springs city marshal James Hurley said that they weren’t expecting things to get out of hand, but they had to be prepared for anything.

“A lot of rumors going on throughout the week, people being bused in and all that. They were unsubstantiated,” Hurley said. “But we are prepared for it.”

“We expect our citizens to act just like they are right now,” Hurley added, referring to the peaceful gathering of residents voicing their concerns.

Spurred by the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police officer, protests all of the country have broken out against racial profiling and inequality in America.

“We can’t play on the playground, we can’t drive a car or have a tail light broken without someone being prejudiced to us,” said Jazzlyn Jarrett, a protester at Sunday’s event. “Racism is taught and if that mindset still holds on and someone’s not speaking up, it’s going to continue to flourish.”

The peaceful protest gathered behind the DeFuniak Springs Fire Station and marched approximately seven blocks to City Hall. Protesters chanted things like “black lives matter” and “I can’t breath” along the way.

Protest organizer Jalen Jones and Defuniak Springs police chief James Hurley gave speeches after the march.

“This is a changing moment for the community of DeFuniak Springs,” said Jalen Jones, organizer of the protest. “Things will never be the same after this day, it’s going to get better, for everybody.”

Jones said as the organizer, he faced some backlash.

“The muscle of racial tension, the muscle of race at all, has not been stretched here,”
Jones said. “A lot of people didn’t want to stretch that muscle so there was a lot of attention, people worried about destruction people coming at me because I’m the face of it.”

“It got a little bit nasty in there,” Jones added, “but I have faith in God and I knew what he told me to do so I stepped up.”

After the march, residents gathered across the street from City Hall. They spoke about their experiences as black Americans and what should come next for the movement, saying that what is happening throughout the country right now is an opportunity to create an America that they would want to raise their children in.

Organizers said this would not be the last event in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in the area, and protesters were all for it.

“It’s time for change, enough is enough. Not only here, but throughout the U.S. we see also protests worldwide,” said Darin Cobb, a protester present at Sunday’s event.

Jones said that he organized the protest to promote unity.

“White, black, Mexican, Latino, I don’t care who you are, we are here for unity, and we are here to be of one accord, and we are here for true unity.”

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