“Enough is enough,” marchers chanted Saturday evening as they walked and carried signs along South Irma Boulevard from Gonzales City Hall to the Ascension Parish Courthouse East.
“Stop police brutality: Black Lives Matter,” one sign read. Many wore Black Lives Matter shirts and held signs with the hashtag #BLM.
Gonzales Mayor Barney Arceneaux, Gonzales Police Chief Sherman Jackson, State Sen. Ed Price, and Ascension Parish Sheriff Bobby Webre were among the speakers who addressed the crowd in front of the courthouse.
Webre denounced the way George Floyd was treated while in custody of Minneapolis Police officers.
“It was gut-wrenching to see. That is not how law enforcement officers should act,” he emphasized.
The sheriff said his deputies have been trained in de-escalation techniques. He added he expects all members of his department to hold each other accountable.
“That’s a policy in place now. Not one we’re putting in place next week,” Webre said.
He assured the crowd that choke holds are not techniques used by members of the Sheriff’s Office and the Gonzales Police Department.
Webre went on to say “peaceful assembly is the hallmark” of American freedom.
“Men and women of the Sheriff’s Office and the Gonzales Police Department are your neighbors. We are your friends. We are your advocates to seek justice for all,” he said.
Later, members of the crowd joined in singing the 1972 Bill Withers classic song "Lean On Me." Mike Brooks of the Sheriff’s Office led the chorus.
The crowd also observed a moment of silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds. The length of time has been used during vigils and gatherings to reflect on the timespan Floyd was restrained under the knee of officer Derek Chauvin.
Bridgette Ford, a teacher at Gonzales Middle School, said she attended to show support for her students, many of whom are minorities.
“I believe they all have a voice and they matter in our society. I love them so much. I had to come here today and do this for them,” Ford said.
The event’s organizer, Farrah McKenzie, said she moved to Ascension Parish in 2007 from St. Charles Parish.
“We’re here today for what happened in Minneapolis. I thought we needed to come together and do something for the injustice going on,” she said.
McKenzie set up the march for “everyone to come together.”
“Even though what happened in Minneapolis hasn’t happened here, we don’t want it to happen here. We’re being proactive and getting ahead of it so it doesn’t happen,” she said.
Lauthaught Delaney Jr., pastor of St. Paul Baptist Church, implored the crowd to be more than just a “social media activist.”
“We’re tired. We’re frustrated. We’re upset,” he said. “I thank everybody who doesn’t look like me that’s standing out here. You came because you felt our lives mattered. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t think our lives matter. I need you to get everyone who looks like you to think our lives matter.”
Delaney stressed the importance of voting and being involved in political matters.
“Are we tired or are we just making noise?” he asked.
T’Shanda Baldridge contributed to this report.