MASON, Ohio — Mason High School students and recent graduates organized a march Saturday to protest racism and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The march attracted hundreds of people, surprising its young organizers, who'd expected a lower turnout.
"We were expecting maybe 100, maybe 200," said Leah Herbert, a Mason High School student and co-organizer of the demonstration. "It's insane. The number of people that came is crazy."
The students and grads said they weren't sure how many people would attend a march in support of Black Lives Matter in Mason, a largely white and suburban community.
"You say, 'Well, it doesn't happen in Mason. Why did they have a protest here?'" said Courtney Banner-Lynch, recent Mason High graduate and co-organizer. "It happens everywhere. I want people to be aware of what's going on. Know their privilege. Know how they can help."
The march was around a mile and a half long, starting at Christ's Church on Mason-Montgomery Road and winding to the steps of the Mason Municipal Center.
The young organizers said they want to make sure Mason doesn't settle for being what they called "non-racist." They want people in the city to fight and work to be "anti-racist."
"It's not about one bad apple or one racist police officer or four racist police officers," said Mariah Norman, Mason High student and co-organizer. "It's about an entire racist criminal justice system."
Though many of the organizers are still too young to even vote, they organized the entire march together and addressed the crowd of several hundred themselves. Norman stood in front of the crowd and addressed them, sharing her experience as a young black woman and calling for reform throughout the entire criminal justice system.
"Living in a black body is a life sentence," said Norman. "An eternal interconnectedness that brings both joy and tragedy. It could have easily been my dad or uncle or cousin or me with an officer kneeling on my neck."
Norman's mother, Angela, said the movement entirely organized by young people in Mason gives her hope for change.
"That generation is going to make the change," she said. "Where some of us at our age group have struggled, we've been complicit. I think that this generation will bring about change within our communities."