Protesters kneel in honor of George Floyd in downtown Cincinnati at Washington Park. | Courtesy of Amna Rustom

Protesters kneel in honor of George Floyd in downtown Cincinnati, Ohio, at Washington Park. | Credit: Courtesy of Amna Rustom

Destiny Brown, a fourth-year in political science, transformed an individual protest into a movement of thousands in the span of two days in Indianapolis.

Ohio State students have been active in protests for the past six days in downtown Columbus, Ohio, and Brown, like many others, joined protests across the state and country, seeking change and demanding justice for black lives.

“I didn’t really know any activists in my city that were organizing anything on Facebook when I looked it up or anything,” Brown, a social change ambassador for the Office of Student Life’s Social Change department — a program that connects students with volunteer opportunities aimed at addressing poverty in the Columbus and Ohio State communities — said. “So I was just like, ‘You know what? I’m just going.’”

Protests emerged nationwide as a result of the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed in Minneapolis police custody May 25, and the history of black Americans who died as a result of police use of force.

While some protests started out with large groups, Brown’s began with about 20 people on Thursday in downtown Indianapolis but gained traction after she tweeted pictures of herself and the group holding up signs at Monument Circle.

She said people began reaching out and motivating her to create another protest, so she set up a Facebook event and posted a tweet for Saturday.

“I would say there was at least — at a point in time there was at least 2,000 to 3,000 people that did show up,” Brown said. “It was just so many people.”

While Brown organized the protest in her city, other Ohio State students also felt it was important for them to attend their hometown protests.

“This fight in this journey takes all of us,” Amna Rustom, a fourth-year in strategic communication and Cincinnati resident, said. “I couldn’t just sit around and do nothing. I think it’s important for me –– if I’m saying I want people involved, it’s important for me to also get involved in, and go stand and go march and go protest.”

Rustom said she marched alongside protesters from Washington Park located in downtown Cincinnati and chanted the phrases “No justice, no peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “I can’t breathe.”

“It was extremely peaceful,” Rustom said. “There was a lot of solidarity amongst black folks, white folks; all kinds of different people, races, ethnicities, religions, were all present there and that was very comforting and heartwarming.”

While some protests remained peaceful, others saw tensions between police and protesters escalate to the point of officers using tear gas, pepper spray and firing wooden pellets and rubber bullets at demonstrators.

Rustom said she saw videos of this happening at the Columbus protest downtown Saturday and the behavior from the police was “absolutely not acceptable.”

“I think it’s really insulting that the same group that we’re protesting against actually used violence at a protest that’s against police brutality and police violence,” Rustom said. “I think that’s very indicative of why we are out there and why we have to keep protesting.”

Brown said she promoted a peaceful protest while organizing in Indianapolis, but at the same time wasn’t going to condemn anyone else’s response to years of injustice.

“Black lives have been murdered for years and it’s wrong for you to value material goods when people’s lives cannot be replaced,” Brown said. “All of these things that are vandalized in response to violence can be replaced, but lives cannot.”

With a non-violent sit-in in front of the Indiana Statehouse building planned for Saturday, Brown continues to organize.

“It’s the importance of all these protests — it’s that not sole individuals speaking for all people, but every single person feels like their voice can be heard,” Brown said.