About 100 protesters gathered Tuesday afternoon in front of the Kent Police Department calling for an end to racial injustices.
Chanting "I can't breathe" and "Black lives matter," the crowd held up signs and cheered as cars driving by honked their horns and shouted,"Black lives matter" back to them.
The demonstration in Kent marked the third day of peaceful protests across Portage County over the death of George Floyd, a black man in Minneapolis who died at the hands of white police officers.
Kent Police Lt. Mike Lewis and Captain Nick Shearer greeted the protesters as they arrived, giving them elbow bumps in many cases, and asked them to remain respectful and peaceful. Protesters yelled chants and held up signs, but didn't move from their spot outside of the Kent Police Department on Haymaker Parkway at the corner of South Depeyster Street.
Protests have erupted across the country since the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day, May 25. Police used force on Monday night against protesters in Washington, D.C., and in Columbus.
Jeff Stevens, a 2018 Kent State University graduate who still lives in Kent, said he joined the protest to call for change.
"No matter what, we're all kind of out here for George Floyd," Stevens said. "But it's more than that."
Stevens said he also wants to see police officers get more training and get to know their communities better.
Gregory King, a Kent State dance professor who has been at previous protests in Portage County, said he wants police to be held accountable as well.
"I want them to be held accountable like any other person if they kill someone. I want for there to be better training in regards to sensitivity around race for the police department and I'm not sure that is happening. It could be, but I don't know what that looks like," he said. "I just know that my black body is killable. And too often when black bodies are murdered, are killed, there's no justice in the process, and there has to be a reckoning."
Although there were several black protesters, most who showed up on Tuesday were white. Many participants were current or former Kent State students, who said they had seen word of the protest on social media. It's not clear who organized the protest.
Tahira Habeeb of Kent was at the protests in Ravenna the day before. She said she worries about her children.
"I'll come every day if I have to," she said. "It's important that we're heard. We're seen. Our allies are out here too."
Alex O'Daniel, who lives in Kent and grew up in the city, said he wanted to show support.
"Hopefully, it encourages more people to think about these issues and create more of a long-term conversation," he said. "Especially for people like me, white guys, start looking into this more."
Kent resident Ryan Fistler said she had brought her 7-year-old daughter, Emma, to the protests in Ravenna on Monday and in Akron on Sunday. She said her daughter is Latina and her niece is mixed race, and she’s fed up with ignorance and excuses.
"I'm hoping the peaceful protest and changes we can make at the local level can be an example for big cities and make a peaceful change for what's right," she said.
Desean Foster of Kent said he felt a need to be involved with the protests.
"It's all around me and I want to play a part. I'm trying to make a difference," Foster said."It's up to us to make it, step by step."
He said he wished there were more black people like him at the protests.
He said he would be at the protest, which started at noon and continued throughout the day, "until I have to go to work at four."
But Foster said he would come out again, as many days as it takes for change.
Reporter Eileen McClory can be reached at 330-422-3908, email@example.com or @Eileen_McClory.