Students gathered in Woodburn Circle and marched through downtown Morgantown Saturday, hoping to educate on racial injustice and encourage people to vote.
Morgantown native Hawa Diawara, an incoming WVU freshman, organized the protest with the help of her friends. She said she’s seen many of the protests in other cities and wanted Morgantown’s to be peaceful.
“I didn’t want the protests to look like the ones on TV,” Diawara said.
Approximately 40 to 50 people gathered in Woodburn Circle before marching through downtown and stopping in front of the Public Safety Building. All protestors were asked to wear masks and be peaceful.
Camryn Pressley, a student double majoring in international studies and Spanish from South Charleston, was one of several that gave speeches at the Public Safety Building. She was hesitant to speak but said she felt liberated afterward.
“I was told I couldn’t be Dorothy (from “Wizard of Oz”) because Dorothy was white and I was black,” Pressley said. She remembers experiencing racism as early as the third grade.
Pressley drove from Charleston on Saturday to give a message about harnessing the sadness of this moment for change, and that progress can be held back but not held down.
Pressley said it’s easy to make a post on social media when you’re behind the veil of a screen, but it’s much more difficult to go out in public and speak about what you believe.
Sophomore medical lab sciences student Sakina Ali first heard about the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on Monday. She said she was emotionally moved and made a few posts on social media, but she wanted to do more.
“Whatever is going on right now, it’s a historic moment and I want to be a part of it,” Ali said.
At the Public Safety Building, some drivers honked and raised fists out of the window in solidarity.
“Whenever I saw a car going by raising their fist,” Ali said, “it felt empowering.”
Hannah Salway, a recent WVU graduate from Rochester, New York, attended the protest and said it’s easy to ignore voices on social media.
“When those voices come together like we did today,” Salway said. “You force people to stop and listen to you and hear you.”
Ali echoed this sentiment, saying she was glad to see members of the community stop to listen to the protestors.
Diawara said she was surprised by how many people showed up from just her and a few of her friends posted about it on social media. She said the goal of the protest was to educate the public and encourage people to vote.
“I urge everyone who attended the march and who couldn’t attend, go out and vote,” Diawara said.