Nearly 30 people marched to the Johnston County Courthouse to bring awareness to issues in the minority community. Among those issues were police brutality, violence, and the lack of recreational activities in East Smithfield.
The event was organized by Omar McKnight of Winston Salem, a Selma native. McKnight said the event was not a Black Lives Matter protest but an All Lives Matter event. Pointing to a white child in the crowd McKnight said, “It’s all lives. We just want a better place for all kids and people growing up who want to better themselves and do more.”
Sunday afternoon, McKnight said the march began in Selma and participants walked down US 301 into Smithfield before stopping for a 6:00 pm rally on the steps of the courthouse in Downtown Smithfield.
Smithfield Police provided bottled water for the marchers on US 301.
“We want to bring awareness to the issues that plague us as a people,” McKnight said. “We are affected in so many ways. Not just one issue but so many issues. We want to unify for a peaceful march. Police brutality is a central issue.”
Asked specifically if there were any issues in Johnston County he was concerned about, McKnight replied, “I am sure there are issues here.”
“One that is a problem is East Smithfield and the kids. We are trying to get some things for the kids as far as Smith Collins Park, Ennis Park, and get a pool to open up for the community. They have an aquatics center but not everyone from East Smithfield is able to get there. We want something in our area for the kids to play.”
McKnight, a community organizer, said this was not the first protest he had organized. “I do it everywhere I go. I’ve been in it for a while.”
“We need transparency. We need equal rights. We need justice.”
One local resident who participated said he challenged the community to “30 days with no violence.” He said he wanted to challenge everyone to a lifetime of no violence but it has to start with 30 days.
Another resident who marched with his daughter said, “It means a whole lot to me. I want a better life for our kids out there. A lot of people have been through a lot. I don’t want our kids to go through what we’ve been through. It’s been a struggle. We need more people out here to push to help us keep going and support us at the end of the day.”
The group held hands and prayed in front of the courthouse before dispersing. Photos by John Payne