By: Lisa Bicknell
“I can’t breathe.”
“Breonna Taylor, say her name.”
“Love always wins.”
“Black lives matter.”
“My color is not a weapon.”
“No justice, no peace.”
These were some of the chants heard on Monday evening as a crowd of at least 150 people, most of whom were locals, gathered at the Estill County Courthouse steps for a peaceful rally supporting the black community.
Brandon Morris, one of the organizers of the event, was the first to speak.
“It’s tough not being white in small towns, but it’s not been all bad. I love this community.”
Morris said his emotions are complicated right now. “I feel angry, sad…I’m disappointed. We’ve got to come together. Change is coming, and it’s got to come fast.”
“We need God more than ever,” he added. “I’m hoping I can walk down the street without fear for my life.”
Kenny Bishop also spoke at the rally. Bishop said he was born in the Marcum and Wallace Hospital, and his children went to school here in a community that is “very dear to me.”
“Who would have ever imagined we would see this—or hear ‘Black Lives Matter’ in Irvine, Ky.”
Bishop said the intent of the rally was not to disparage “good police officers,” but to acknowledge that “racism is a sin—an attack on the image of God.”
“Stop living in denial and admit there’s a problem,” Bishop said. To the ministers in the community, he said, “Be like the caring brown Jewish Jesus instead of the arrogant white one.”
State Representatives Cluster Howard and Charles Booker also spoke at the rally. Howard spoke of the inequalities in healthcare and unemployment, while acknowledging that “all police are not bad.”
“My family is standing up, and I’ve got to be here,” said Booker, who is from Louisville and is running against Mitch McConnell for Senate. “Breonna Taylor was a friend of my family,” he added.
Bluegrass singing group “The Local Honeys” sang “I am a Kentuckian,” and Brandon Morris asked participants to kneel in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in honor of George Floyd, who died as an officer kneeled on his neck for the same amount of time.
The rally ended at 8 p.m. with a march around the courthouse.
Irvine Police Chief John Sturniolo described the event as “very peaceful” and said he was happy with the result. He said that people were respectful as they got their message across.
“The main thing is that everyones’ voices were heard, and everyone made it home safely.”
Sheriff Chris Flynn also said that he thought the rally went well. “I support their right to do that,” he said. “We were here to do our job and protect the Constitution.” Flynn also said he appreciated that organizers made their own efforts to keep control internally.