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Rally crowd calls for equal treatment
Brooke Simmons
Brooke Simmons of Guyton shows her support for Black Lives Matter during Sunday’s courthouse event. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff
We the people must know that taking a stand for black lives does not diminish or dismiss anyone else's life.
Mia Mance, director of G100

 SPRINGFIELD — Every word uttered during Sunday’s Unity in the Community rally was delivered with the intent of binding people in a noble purpose — achieving fair treatment for all.

More than 200 people, most clad in black shirts, attended the event to call for an end to racial injustice and police brutality.

Edies Cope, president of the Effingham County Branch of the NAACP, set the tone early. She addressed the crowd after Pastor Johnnie Miller of Rincon’s Mount Carmel Deliverance Center delivered an opening prayer.

“Let’s join in with whatever is happening today,” Cope said. “Listen with an open heart and patience, and non-violence altogether ...”

Mia Mance, director of G100, followed Cope at the podium. She read the names of a dozen black men and women who died during recent encounters with law enforcement. The list included Rayshard Brooks, who succumbed Friday night after being shot twice in the back by an Atlanta police officer while attempting to flee.

Mance also mentioned several black men and women whose deaths remain unresolved. She included Valdosta’s Kendrick Lewis, whose body was discovered in a rolled-up gym mat at Lowndes High School in 2013.

She said, “We the people must acknowledge our collective heartbreak, our trauma, our fear, our anger, our outrage, our sense of hopelessness and our constant questioning and wondering, ‘Does anyone care? Will this reality ever change and is anyone listening?’”

Mance urged action against violence and oppression instead of more talk.

“We the people must be willing to be the solution to say, ‘not another child, not another mother, father, husband, wife, uncle, aunt — not another will become a hash tag and a video on social media,” she said. “We the people must be willing to create and demand solutions. We the people must not let people dismiss this movement, this outcry for justice ...”

As she continued, Mance drew rousing applause when she said, “We the people must acknowledge that all black lives matter.” 

Mance, however, added that all lives matter and black citizens need help to achieve equality.

“We the people must know that taking a stand for black lives does not diminish or dismiss anyone else’s life,” she said. “To the white community, Latino, Asian, immigrant, disabled, LBGTAIA+ — you are valuable and essential to pushing progress forward.”

A couple of musical interludes broke up the parade of speakers during the rest of the rally, which also featured a voter registration drive. Other speakers included Fran Ross, Chad Mance, Russ Deen, Pastor Josh Holley, Pastor Samuel Robinson, Meghan Lacenski, Pastor Lon Harden, Dr. Julia Cochran, NyChorida Austin, Father David Rose and Pastor Richard Garvin.

Musical peformances were turned in by Vonseddrick Williams, Holley and Sara Fullerton, and Christian Bowers.

Several members of local law enforcement agencies were on, including Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie, Rincon Police Chief Jonathan Murrell and Springfield Police Chief Paul Wynn.