By SHANE SMITH
For The Yukon Review
“Your silence is violence! Black Lives Matter!”
Those words were shouted Monday by several people on the side of State Highway 66.
They were part of a group of at least 30 demonstrators who gathered at the intersection of Yukon Parkway and the highway to voice their concerns.
Every major city in the country is seeing an impressive number of protesters decrying racism and police brutality.
Two weeks on from the death of George Floyd at the hands (knee) of a police officer, and the protests are still going strong.
Now, smaller cities like Yukon are seeing their own demonstrations.
One rally was held last week, but Monday’s event brought a bigger crowd.
Though small compared to Washington, the demonstration was full of passion.
People wrote bold statements on signs and shouted out to rushing traffic. Some drivers waved as they passed the crowd, and even more honked their horns.
At least one sign specifically asked for this, reading “Honk if You Are Against Racism.” Other messages included “Racism is a Pandemic,” “Black Lives Matter” and “Say Their Names.”
Several passersby parked at Life Church across the street and took pictures of the crowd. Others could be seen at a nearby gas station cheering in support.
The idea to get people together came from two Yukon high schoolers, Audrey Dunn and Cara Perkowski.
They posted about the event on the Facebook group Yukon Happenings, hoping that many would see it and decide to attend.
“We want to show people in our community here that we’ve got them and we stand with them,” said Dunn.
“We want to spread positive love and raise awareness,” said Perkowski.
The two organizers were happy to have support.
Several people walked around and offered water bottles.
Early on, a police officer stopped by and asked if the group needed anything.
Dunn and Perkowski said the police department has been very supportive.
When asked, multiple attendees explained why joining the growing movement was important to them.
“I feel a responsibility to fight for everyone’s lives and demand justice,” said Ella Stanley. “I want to make change in person for everyone to see.”
“People may not know their opinions yet about all this,” said Payton Winfrey. “Maybe by seeing us, they might want to learn more.”
A few people said they have been to numerous protests and rallies over the past two weeks. Winfrey and Stanley said they have attended protests in Oklahoma City and the Capitol.
A Mustang resident, Danny Nguyen, said he was actively seeking to attend as many gatherings as possible.
“I think being part of Gen Z, we have the power of social media,” he said. “And it’s brought us together for this movement.”
The deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other black Americans had a huge impact on many, including Debra Longley.
“My husband is Choctaw and black, so when all this hit, it hit on a very personal level for me,” she said. “We share kids together. I couldn’t imagine my child lying on the ground like that crying out to me.
“Equal justice for everybody is pretty fair. We are all part of the same race — we’re not from different planets or anything.”
Others voiced similar sentiments, calling for unity in the midst of a chaotic period in history.
“I’m tired of seeing police brutality against black people and people of color,” said Arysa Puckett. “We want to raise awareness in our community. It’s mainly white, and we need to understand the privilege that we have.”
“I think it’s very important for the youth to stand up, now more than ever,” said April Sanchez. “We’re spreading positivity and love, and people seem to like it.”
The protesters in Yukon came from all walks of life.
Many of them didn’t even know each other, but they each had something in common — they showed a great desire for racial equality and for bringing an end to violence.
One protester, Angel D, put it very simply.
“That’s pretty much it,” he said, pointing to his own sign. It read, “Black Lives Matter