By Kevin Shannahan
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
– The First Amendment of the United States’ Constitution
Natchitoches city park and the downtown riverbank were the scenes of peaceful and determined protest Tuesday, June 2 as a racially diverse group of several hundred people of every age and background gathered to protest the deaths of George Floyd and other African-Americans killed in encounters with police. There were initially two protests, one at City Park and one at the downtown riverbank. The participants in the City Park rally marched to the riverbank with a police escort to join the protest being held there. A drummer led chants and the crowd said the names of the deceased in order to hold them in memory. Several men and women made impassioned speeches to the crowd.
The protest was entirely peaceful from start to finish. It was more than that. The participants ca rried themselves with dignity, determination and courtesy. Young people handed out water. There was no litter remaining at the conclusion of the protest, a marked contrast to every other event I have covered there. The few pieces I saw were picked up and thrown away. The protest was ordinary people from every walk of life coming together to exercise “…the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances…” We saw Natchitoches, and America, at its finest tonight.