YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – As Minneapolis and even cities like Columbus brace for another night of protests and rioting, some believe the violence is an outgrowth of decades of frustration.
“There is a quote from Dr. King that says, ‘A riot is the language of the unheard,'” Derrick McDowell said.
Both McDowell and Penny Wells work with the local group Mahoning Valley Sojourn to the Past. While they firmly believe in Martin Luther King, Jr.’s message of nonviolent protests for civil rights, they also understand what’s happening now.
“There are people in communities over, and over and over again who are asking to be heard and, unfortunately, resort to ways in which they believe this is the only way we’ll be heard,” McDowell said.
The protests started earlier this week after a video of a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on the neck of a man in the street went viral. That man, George Floyd, died.
“I mean, it’s on video,” Wells said. “You can see it time after time again.”
The protests spread Thursday night to Columbus and other cities, where windows were smashed and police used pepper spray to disperse the crowds.
“I think it can happen anywhere,” Wells said. “Last week, nobody would have thought it could have happened in Minneapolis.”
While neither Wells nor McDowell is condoning the violence, they admitted outsiders will insert themselves into the crowds, looking for ways to take advantage of the situation.
McDowell said while civil rights leaders preach peaceful protests, they also urge people not to simply sit by and let injustice take place.
“It’s a very tough thing to balance but it’s worthy of the cause.”
Youngstown Mayor Tito Brown released the following statement on Floyd’s death Friday:
“Today and every day since, I have grieved the gruesome death of George Floyd, who was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota on Memorial Day. Mr. Floyd should be alive today. My heart goes out to the Floyd family, who are grieving this senseless death. I am working with Chief Lees of the Youngstown Police Department and Guy Burney of the Community Initiative to Reduce Violence to make sure this never happens in Youngstown. In the coming days, I will be working with Chief Lees, Mr. Burney, local clergy and community leaders to have a discussion about the racial tensions that still exist in our country and how we can build a community where the killing of innocent African-American men and women isn’t the norm.”