PADUCAH, Ky. (WSIL) -- Demonstrators in Paducah joined protests seen across the country for a sixth night following the death of George Floyd.
The original organizers went to the newspaper and other media to delay the planned demonstration at the Wacinton statue at Noble Park.
Concerned citizens came anyway with lawn chairs and homemade signs. The crowd quickly grew to 500 or more.
“These protests bring attention to these issues but voting brings change to the issues,” Dujuan Thomas, a non-partisan write-in candidate for mayor, said of the event.
Thomas led the initial gathering with his campaign manager at the statue but insisted to News 3 that this was not a campaign event.
“Negative influences that would be brought to African Americans. That was the main reason I wanted to come. We can’t let hate silence us,” Thomas said.
Thomas called on President Trump, governors and members of Congress to bring strong reform, like background checks and mental evaluations for officers, to police departments.
Organizers read the names of those killed in high-profile police incidents like George Floyd, Eric Garner and Lexington, Ky. resident Breonna Taylor.
Some homemade signs turned Garner and Floyd’s dying words into a rallying cry.
“If peaceful protests don’t work, and not saying anything don’t work, then we need leaders to come to us,” protestor Marty Martin said.
The curbside gathering quickly spilled into the street where the crowd stopped traffic on Park Avenue.
Thomas who was in the middle of an interview with News 3 was surprised by the sudden push of the crowd into traffic.
The demonstrators, lead by police who were stopping traffic, then started marching east down Park Avenue to the Martin Luther King, Jr. monument.
Nearby Paducah resident Heather Waters saw the event from her yard and brought her family and neighbor kids out to see it.
“This is a life lesson. They have a voice, they matter, and that they’re beautiful,” Waters said.
On 26th Street, sisters Mylove, 9; Amiya, 7; and Zeniyah, 5 held a homemade sign that said "black lives matter" proudly above their heads to show support for the marchers.
Paducah Police Chief Brian Laird was on scene directing officers for traffic control.
“This is their constitutional right,” Laird said.
Laird said they were prepared should things escalate further.
“We have a plan,” he said.
Ahead of the event, city leadership issued a letter to the community Saturday highlighting the initiatives in place that address racism and understanding in the community.
“Our leadership and actions locally can provide an example of what we want to see in America. We can’t change what occurs in other cities, but we can take responsibility for what happens in ours,” the statement read in part.
The letter listed the community policing approach by the police department and NAACP, multiple Race Unity Groups, the efforts of the Office of Cultural Diversity & Inclusion at WKCTC and other faith-based groups that they say they are committed to supporting.
The letter put out by Mayor Brandi Harless, Paducah city commissioners, city manager and Chief Laird said they are “mourning” for the nation.
“What we do now will not be enough. It’s what we do that will make the difference,” the letter said in part.