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Peaceful protest lines Harlan County bypass

A peaceful protest took place Tuesday on the sidewalk lining U.S. 421 in Harlan.

Bree Carr, a local high school student, organized the protest alongside other youth to pay respect and raise awareness for the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, which have sparked an uproar of protests and riots denouncing racism and police brutality.

“I’ve seen all of the tragedies that have been going on and covered by the news, and I’ve been thinking how much I want to do something,” she said. “I had a woman, who I care about really dearly, kind of look at me and say, ‘Well, why don’t you?’”

Carr said it ignited a fire in her heart to be a voice for people of color, who either don’t have the means to “speak their truth” or need help doing so.

“My biggest aspiration with this right now is people who are fighting things that are so hard all over the country, people of color, will be able to look into rural Appalachia, look into southeastern Kentucky, and see that there are allies,” she said.

“For every person they could look at here and think that they’re racist and they’re prejudiced — because prejudice here is just as old as our dialect — they will see that there’s so many other people that are listening, that see them and that care about them. We’re going to stand with them.”

Although Carr’s belief is to fight for equality throughout the U.S., regardless of someone’s ethnicity or stereotype, others have made it clear they do not agree with her, going as far as to spread rumors throughout social media.

Some of the comments ranged anywhere from calling Carr and the other protestors “stupid” to stating they would hit them with their car if one were to step into the road.

“I just think that it’s incredibly inappropriate what they’ve been saying,” she said. “It’s not just negativity, it was downright taking something that was labeled as peaceful and making it something it completely wasn’t. It was lies, and that’s just so inappropriate and I don’t see the reason for it.”

Carr said although their opinions differ than her own, she wants them to know that “they’re the reason we’re out here protesting,” for justice and for equality.

“All I’m doing here is giving the stage and letting other people have a voice. So, as many people that want to show up and share their experiences, that’s awesome and I’m excited.”

Jarrod Sherman, another local attending the rally, said it was important to attend and show solidarity with those who are protesting and seeking justice around the world.

“But second to that, it was refreshing to see young people step up and take ownership of something in Harlan County. We need more of that,” he said.

Sherman said through a few negative comments and obscene gestures, the protesters handled themselves “extremely well.”

“I was pleased to see that the vast majority of the people driving by were  supportive and respectful,” he said. I’m very proud of Harlan County this evening.”