BETHESDA, Md. - Hundreds of Montgomery County residents packed into the Bethesda library parking lot and street for a large Black Lives Matter protest that was one of two demonstrations seen in the normally quiet and more affluent neighborhood.
“Everyone thinks Bethesda doesn’t care,” said Stefanie Van Pelt, telling FOX 5 neighbors wanted to do something, not wanting to stay silent as protests continue some 30 minutes away, outside of the White House.
Protests have been popping up throughout the DMV and beyond in response to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
By 5 p.m dozens of residents packed Wisconsin at Rosedale Avenue and multiple streets south of there for “Justice Can’t Wait Vigil.” Demonstrators waved signs at cars encouraging drivers to honk in solidarity with those across the country protesting police-brutality against the African American community.
Four hours before then, what looked to be around one thousand demonstrators gathered for a student-led Black Lives Matter protest at the Bethesda library.
Earlier that morning, multiple business owners along Arlington Road had preemptively boarded-up windows and doors once they learned of the protest.
Students, parents with children on their shoulders, all marched peacefully in an event that lasted around three hours. Some splintered off and continued marching until 5 p.m.
A group named “DC Teens Action” assisted Tuesday’s protest organizers in efforts like disseminating protest information.
These are the same organizers behind Monday’s peaceful demonstration through Gaithersburg.
Another Montgomery County action is planned for Rockville on Friday at 1 p.m. The group also listed actions planned this week in Virginia.
A compelling moment, before the march, came when everyone in the gathering raised both hands in the air at once (as protesters are often seen doing when they chant, “hand-up don’t shoot”). It was then that the hundreds of protesters, with their both hands raised, repeated an oath not to stay silent about “racism, anti-blackness or violence.”
One of the student protest organizers, a young Black Walt Whitman High School graduate, told FOX 5 DC she was very excited to see the crowd, which she noted was predominately white.
“It means a lot because going to, living in Bethesda, being one of the only Black girls at my school, it’s – I face a lot of ignorance,” said Rachel Adeoti.
“This is what we need. We activism. We need people talking out against this,” said a young White student protest organizer, Olivia Tyler.
“My grandma marched on Washington and I am still doing the same thing. The same thing, because nothing has changed,” said a Bethesda-Chevy Chase graduate in an emotional address to massive gathering.
“Like she said, she’s tired. She’s like what, 15? I’ll be 52 this year,” said a protester who wiped tears away from her eyes when she heard the BCC student talk about her grandmother.
April Lewis, a Bethesda resident who also spoke, said, “You can’t hate us and be a believer. You know, you got people that go to church every Sunday morning and talk about they love God, and they hate us for what God created.”
”People are literally dying as a result of racism whether it’s a knee on the neck, in the case of George Floyd. Whether it’s someone not getting treatment in a hospital. Whether it’s being hit by a bus because you community doesn’t have sidewalks. This racism is embedded in every system, in every structure,” Councilmember Will Jawando said.
The Councilmember Will Jawando recently announced he plans to introduce a resolution to declare racism a public health emergency. This could allow the county council to direct resources to different issues impacting the county’s communities of color.
Jawando also said on Tuesday he plans to introduce bills shortly after the resolution that would change the standard for deadly use of force, prohibit knees as a police tactic, and require officers to intervene if another officer is committing a crime - a similar policy holding complicit officers accountable is what FOX 5 also discussed with the Montgomery County Police Chief on Monday.
The Councilmember told FOX 5 he was headed to a third demonstration planned at Leisureworld.
UPDATE: An earlier version of this article indicated that the protesters were packed into the library proper, and not the parking lot. It has been updated to reflect that they were in the library's parking lot.