Presidio youth take to streets to support Black Lives Matter movement

Leilani Chavez holds up a sign she made for a Black Lives Matter protest in Presidio. Chavez organized the event for Presidio residents to show solidarity with Black Americans across the country. Photo by Maisie Crow.

PRESIDIO — Passionate chants permeated the Presidio streets Tuesday evening as emphatic protesters marched up and down O’Reilly Street while clinging to cardboard signs that read: “Fight the Power, Black Lives Matter” and “Matter is the minimum.”

The group of 14 young protesters — who were escorted by five Presidio police trucks that were present “for their [the protesters] safety,” — congregated at the Presidio High School track before proceeding to march down to the Santa Teresa Church. Along the way chants of “no justice, no peace” and “Black lives matter” were repeated as protesters walked with their fists up in the air.

After seeing the wave of protests that have materialized in each and every state across the country, Presidio High Class of 2019 graduate Leilani Chavez decided something needed to be done in Presidio. Chavez, who lives in Las Vegas now, expressed that “seeing everything that was going on and not being able to be home while it started” really took a toll on her, and so she decided to come home and organize a protest of her own in Presidio.

To urge people to join her in the streets of Presidio, Chavez took to Facebook and Twitter with an impassioned post that spotlighted the injustice behind the death of George Floyd. The post continued, saying, “I want to be able to show the world that small towns like mine are standing with them showing our support.” The post was retweeted and shared across social media to bring awareness.

Chavez, who was pleasantly surprised by the turnout, said that while the Black Lives Matter protests are more prominent in bigger cities, she felt they still needed to be represented in smaller ones too because “we all want to be one.”

Representing the Black Lives Matter movement was important to Presidio resident J’Lynn Goldston who said “seeing all these people and reading all these stories” about what is happening across the country is hurtful. For her, knowing that “it could happen to me anytime,” is more than enough to encourage her to take to the streets to advocate for change.

Goldston stated, “I’m one of like two, maybe three, Black people in this town,” and so she felt it was crucial for her to represent the movement where she lives in hopes of outliving the injustice that has plagued people just like her.

Furthermore, Goldston stated that the protest was needed because Presidio is not a place where people are actively on social media, and so she felt it was important to make a public statement in an attempt to help people become more aware of what is happening in the world.

As the protest progressed, Presidio Mayor John Ferguson joined in, and the crowd embraced his presence with cheers. Ferguson, who was impressed with the efforts of the young protesters, urged them to stay with the Black Lives Matter movement, which he feels is of the utmost importance.

“At the civic level, the state level and the national level, Black lives really do matter,” said Ferguson as he expressed that just talking about it is not enough, rather we need to prove it with our actions on a daily basis.

For Presidio in particular, Ferguson feels that, in conjunction with the national conversation surrounding police brutality, some people may assume that those same injustices do not happen in small towns. But, he highlighted the importance of being aware and involved to ensure that those injustices, in fact, will not happen in Presidio. And so in that same vein, he applauded the protests.

Ferguson also spoke to the group of protesters saying, “As long as I am mayor of this city, the police will treat the people with justice and be fair.” Additionally, he referred to the protesters as “the future of Presidio, the future of the world.”

After just over an hour of marching, the crowd reconvened at the Presidio High School field where water was handed out, and final words of encouragement were shared. While gathered in a circle, young protesters emphasized the importance of having empathy with other races and ethnicities during a time of strife. One protester raised their voice with a final statement, “Today for them, tomorrow for us.”