WEST LIBERTY, Iowa–After learning about the death of George Floyd and national calls for an end to police violence against African Americans from the news and social media, West Liberty residents Elizabeth Pearson and Miguel Solis knew they wanted to do something. Originally they planned to join existing peaceful protests, but their families discouraged them from going to an event out of town because of safety concerns. Still wanting to make a difference, the two decided to plan a local event. Inspired by marches elsewhere, Pearson encouraged starting one of their own. Together, the two organized We March for Peace June 6 in West Liberty.
“The message we wanted to give was that our community, West Liberty, hears the black community and stands with the Black Lives Matter movement, and to show that it is not only the big cities that need a change–that small towns like West Liberty need a change too,” explained Solis.
“The message that I convey is peaceful marches can be possible,” elaborated Pearson.
Pearson and Solis worked closely with the City of West Liberty to plan the march. Together, they selected a safe route for the marchers to follow. The West Liberty Police Department also participated in the planning. The day of the event, they provided an escort to help with traffic management.
We March for Peace kicked off at 11 a. m. on June 6 at the West Liberty Heritage Depot Museum. Pearson, and several invited community members spoke, including Michael Argon, Maria Gamon, First Church United Pastor Marian Hart, and Dan Stevenson. Following the speeches, Solis stated: “the police escorted us down the route we chose. The police also marched with us as we chanted, ‘no justice no peace,’ and, ‘black lives matter.’ At the end of the march, we took a nine minute kneel in silence to honor George Floyd and the many other lives lost to police brutality.”
Pearson was equally impressed with the West Liberty Police Department’s participation. “They were also on the scene with us, walking with us, supporting, us,” she recalled.
Though no one took an official count of the participants, Pearson and Solis estimate that between 100 and 200 people attended. Other local residents offered their support from the sidelines, waving to the marchers from their yards.
Both Pearson and Solis felt the march proved a positive experience, and that the community had united behind a shared cause. “I think the march went really well,” said Solis. “I was proud of the West Liberty community for showing up and supporting, and there was more than what I would have expected.”
“To look around your community and see that everyone is together for what they stand on is a beautiful thing,” added Pearson. “What happened at the march was beautiful.”
The City of West Liberty, West Liberty Police Department, and West Liberty Community School District also seemed pleased with the outcome of the march, sharing a locally produced film of the march and photos from it on their social media pages.