LABELLE — A Black Lives Matter(BLM) protest was successfully staged in front of the Hendry County Courthouse on the evening of Monday, June 8.
Nearly 80 participants donned their facial coverings and lined the sidewalk on both sides of Hickpochee Avenue. As vehicles passed through the bustling intersection, many drivers honked their horns and waved in support of the movement. Powerful messages scrawled across signs were waved in the air by the diverse crowd. Protesters ranged from age 3 to 86. Behind the protesters, in the Dollar General parking lot, there were eight Hendry County sheriff’s vehicles ready in case the event got out of hand.
According to their website, Black Lives Matter was organized four years ago with a mission “to build local power and to intervene when violence was inflicted on black communities by the state and vigilantes.”
While there was some anxiety about this event, and some businesses announced early closures when news of the protest began circulating, this crowd remained peaceful as the attendees focused on their message.
“We are all here fighting for freedom and justice for black people and, by extension, all people,” Vanessa Becker said.
At one point the entire crowd was heard chanting “Black Lives Matter!” in solidarity.
“This is so good for LaBelle,” Gigi Ramirez commented. “We are a small town, but look at us! Look at this turnout! It gives me hope.”
Several families were present with their young children. One woman stopped to question a mother with her young child, asking, “Why would you put your child in harm’s way like this? Why would you bring your entire family here? It seems way too risky!”
The mother held her child closer, and responded, “I believe it is important to not only stand up for what I believe, but to make sure my kids learn to do the same.” She went on to explain, “Learning to stand up, speak out and fight injustice helps create strong leaders and better communities. Teaching my kids how to stand up and make their voices heard at a protest, while also having a safety plan in place — is my choice as a parent.”
Demonstrators made sure to stay on sidewalks and helped each other, with several passing out cold bottles of water, extra signs and masks for those who didn’t have any. They also were seen cleaning up after themselves when the event came to an end.
Another march is planned in LaBelle for June 14, at 8 a.m. The plan is to walk along Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard to the Hendry County Courthouse. A link to the event on Facebook can be found here: facebook.com/events/s/peaceful-march-for-justice-hen/580813656176869/?ti=icl.