Close to 500 people gathered in downtown Ypsilanti for a Black Lives Matter protest on Saturday, June 20. Held from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., protestors met outside of the Ypsilanti District Library (229 W. Michigan Ave) before marching through the city.
The protest was held as part of a wider movement of protests nationwide to address police brutality and systemic racism following the death of George Floyd during his arrest by four former Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
Before marching, speakers addressed protestors from the steps of the Ypsilanti District Library. Speakers included Ayanna Bennett, the event organizer, Rep. Debbie Dingell, and two members of the Ypsilanti City Council, Nicole Brown and Annie Sommerville. Both Sommerville and Brown addressed recent racist remarks given by Ypsilanti mayor Beth Bashert during a meeting on Tuesday, June 16, of the Ypsilanti City Council.
Some community members and leaders have called for Bashert to resign as they feel her statement was racist, and that her reaction to backlash as well as her apology have been inadequate. Both Sommerville and Brown called on her to resign during the June 20 protest.
At 3:30 p.m. protestors began to march, following a route beginning on N. Washington St., to Cross St., and then Hamilton St. Protestors then turned on to W. Michigan Ave. before ending the march in front of the City of Ypsilanti police station. While protestors gathered on W. Michigan Ave., Ypsilanti Chief of Police Tony DeGiusti met and spoke with protestors outside of the station. Both police and protestors remained peaceful throughout the protest.
A GoFundMe fundraiser was posted by Bennet more than two weeks prior to the protest. The initial fundraising goal of $1,000 was surpassed with funds reaching $3,575 by the day of the protest. Funds were used to purchase sunscreen, water, and medical supplies for the protest. Remaining donations were given to the Black Lives Matter organization. Multiple Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor area businesses donated to the GoFundMe.
In an initial post to Facebook on June 2, Bennet explained her reason for wanting to organize a Black Lives Matter protest.
"I’m 21 and the amount of racism I have seen in my life has been [traumatizing!]️ I’m tired of not having a voice. I’m tired of not doing anything," the post stated. A Facebook event published by Bennet gathered over 5,400 responses, with 1,200 individual responding that they planned to attend the protest. Within three days from being published on June 3, the event had gathered 3,000 responses.