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Omaha Magazine

Read This Name: One person’s Narrative on Saturday’s Protest

Jun 01, 2020 01:11PM ● By Chad Lemke

Photo from Friday's protest at 72nd and Dodge streets.

I didn’t expect to be one of thousands of people attending the Saturday, May 30, downtown Omaha protest. 

That night, I got a message from some friends asking if I wanted to go with them. How could I turn that down? The chance to experience what I believe to be an important piece of modern history. Even with what some people see as unnecessary property destruction, the protests may also be a time when we see a significant change in how the U.S. police system and courts have treated black communities for far too long. If that is true, I absolutely wanted to be there to see it happening. 

Walking down, about a half mile out, what I focused on was the Woodmen Tower illuminated in red with a plane and helicopter flying overhead. Closer to Farnam Street, I saw waves of signs and people marching on the sidewalk alongside columns of cars blowing their horns—more cars than the police could ever hope to stop. 

The city was almost unrecognizable compared to walking there on a normal day. Once in the crowd, noise and emotion overpowers everything else. There’s fear, seeing the faceless reflective gas masks staring back at you. There’s also power and energy in being with a group so furious and so large. At any moment, one protester could be seen as threatening and cause a volley of tear gas canisters followed by rubber bullets. 

There seemed to be two large groups of protesters downtown, the ones centered in front of the county district courthouse and a few blocks over by the police department. I was a part of the group in front of the courthouse. The police allowed the protesters to get rather close—many were up the steps and encroaching onto the grass a few feet from the police line—before the tear gas canisters were thrown, forcing the crowds back onto the street. 

One man with a sign stuck out to me about two blocks from the courthouse. It was on a street corner facing a small group of police centered around an armored swat car. In the swat car porthole on top sat another gas-masked visage. The man with the sign yelled louder than the people around me, and he pointed to the man in the swat car saying, with passion “You! Read this name! This is why we are here! Read it!” The officer saw the sign. It read “George Floyd.”