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Speaking Out: #BlackLivesMatter Demonstrators in Their Own Words

More than a month after the death of George Floyd in police custody, rallies and protests have continued across the country — calling for systemic change to police departments and reallocation of police funds toward education and social services.

Though the crowds at these events often speak and chant with a unified voice, they are made up of thousands of individuals, each with their own reasons for being there. Here are just a few of them, in their own words.

Jonathan Bloom/NBC Bay Area

Lorraine Hanks

Lorraine Hanks took the stage at a Black Lives Matter rally in front of San Francisco City Hall, looking out at a crowd of mask-wearing demonstrators holding up cardboard signs. A mother and a youth advocate, Hanks said it's not fair that young Black men leave home not knowing whether they'll return alive.

Our tax dollars are paying for the police to bully Black people. I refuse to be bullied in my own neighborhood.

Lorraine Hanks
Mom and youth advocate Lorraine Hanks explains why #BlackLivesMatter is important to her.
A woman in orange speaks to a crowd of protesters
Jonathan Bloom/NBC Bay Area

Mildred Coffey

Speaking at a rally in San Francisco, Mildred Coffey reminded the crowd that the groundswell of support behind Black Lives Matter is a continuation of work that began during the civil rights battle of the mid-20th century. While soft-spoken in conversation, her remarks to the crowd were anything but quiet, demanding action and eliciting cheers.

We are not animals. We are human beings. Stop killing our men. Stop killing our women. Stop killing our children.

Mildred Coffey
Mom and parent organizer Mildred Coffey speaks about racial injustice and her commitment to #BlackLivesMatter.
a man in a cap that says "fairfield" looks out at a street full of protesters
Jonathan Bloom/NBC Bay Area

Dhalimu Robinson

Dhalimu Robinson moved to the Bay Area from Harlem, New York City — and said he's found Northern California to be "a new place with the same old problems." Marching through the streets of San Francisco, he said no matter where he goes, he's dogged by the same fear that even a routine interaction with police could spell the end of his life. That needs to change right now, he said.

When I'm at a stop sign ... I still feel like my life may be taken if a police officer pulls up behind me — and no one would ever know how great I was.

Dhalimu Robinson
Dhalimu Robinson, who moved to the Bay Area from Harlem, New York City, talks about the racial injustice he's seen in both places.
two young women stand with protest signs. one sign reads in part "black lives matter."
Jonathan Bloom/NBC Bay Area

Iris Manriquez & Melissa Aceves

Iris Manriquez said the San Francisco march for Black Lives Matter on Juneteenth marked the first time she'd ever taken part in a public demonstration or protest of any sort. Even amid concern over the spread of the novel coronavirus, she and Melissa Aceves said telling the world that Black Lives Matter is simply too important for them to stay home.

Yes, there's a pandemic going on, but there's also people being killed on the streets.

Iris Manriquez
At a #BlackLivesMatter march in San Francisco, Iris Manriquez and Melissa Aceves explain the importance of being there, even during a pandemic.
Photo montage with two rappers performing with microphones on the left and right sides, and a young woman holding up a "BLM" sign in the middle.
Jonathan Bloom/NBC Bay Area

vtizzel & Barnzilla

Rapping about corruption and injustice, young hip hop artists vtizzel and Barnzilla performed some of their original songs at a Black Lives Matter rally in San Francisco. The two say the death of George Floyd was a tipping point that's allowed society to begin having uncomfortable and long-overdue conversations around racism and how to change it.

We deserve to be able to live a longer life ... and this is our chance, right here. And we cannot waste it on any other distractions.

Barnzilla
Young hip hop artists vtizzel and Barnzilla rap about injustice and corruption, and explain why the groundswell around #BlackLivesMatter is a moment not to be wasted.
photo collage with a young blonde woman on the left with the letters "BLM!" written on her fingers. On the right, a crowd of protesters holding "black lives matter" signs.
Jonathan Bloom/NBC Bay Area

Philipine Hebly

Philipine Hebly came to the United States from the Netherlands to work as an au pair. She quickly discovered that the reality she now lives in America is much different from the one that's experienced by her Black friends. Hebly joined a San Francisco Black Lives Matter march to demand change to a law enforcement establishment she says is stacked against young men of color.

When the police approach, they don't really question me. They just question my (Black) friends.

Philipine Hebly
A recent immigrant from the Netherlands, Philipine Hebly explains the culture shock of realizing that her Black friends in America live in a different reality than she does.
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