• Rhea Warren

City Seen: Huntsville

Updated: Jul 24, 2020

City Scene: Huntsville

On a warm Wednesday evening in Big Spring Park, a peaceful protest quickly took a violent turn. Tear gas and rubber bullets penetrated what began as a tranquil rally in opposition to police brutality. and ended with the arrest of 24 people. The Huntsville Police Department received intelligence that many of protesters that were resistant to the 8 pm curfew and had plans to instigate trouble came from out of town.

“The NAACP put together a 5 pm protest and it was very family friendly,” said Jessica Barker, a business consultant, social justice advocate, and president of the Alabama New South Coalition, Madison County. “It was a very diverse crowd but there was so much unity.”

Barker, a mother of four, was originally hesitant about attending the protest due to COVID and the potential close proximity to other people. Her 13-year old daughter was a major motivating force behind her and her children’s attendance.

“I want to instill the knowledge of civil rights as it happens. My kids don’t learn enough about civil rights leaders in school and I want them to have that hands-on education and experience,” said Barker.

By 6:30 pm, the civil protest started to change when citizens wanted to march towards the courthouse. Protesters were met with police presence in SWAT gear, and Barker knew it was time to take her kids home.

“When we drove around the block, we saw the smoke. By the time we got home, I heard about the rubber bullets and tear gas,” said Barker.

Barker attended the protest with about 30 local activists and community leaders. After looking through the mugshots of the arrested, she nor her cohorts recognized a single face.

Though the protest ended with police force, Barker does not regret allowing her children to experience the camaraderie and solidarity of the beginning.

“It’s important to understand and know your history because it affects you the same way today,” said Barker. “We see now when we stand collectively that change occurs.”

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