BATAVIA — You can’t fight fear with fear. Openness leads to education.
Organizers from Community Against Social Injustice say they’re continuing forward with their planned peaceful protest on June 7.
But there are ground rules, as there have been from the very start: Any attempts to incite, and any moves toward violence or destruction will absolutely not be tolerated.
“I continue to push the educational aspect of it,” said Macy Paradise, one of the event’s organizers. “Violence would jade the whole mission ... The last thing any of us want would be anything to happen in the community.”
Paradise, 35, is a Batavia native and resident who has been concerned with inequality since he was young. He created the Community Against Social Injustice Facebook group as a way to form a community locally and beyond.
He’s also lived in Los Angeles, New York City and Colorado, and got to know people from many different cultures. Standing 6 feet, 5 inches and tattooed, he said he’s experienced what it’s like when people judge him on his appearance.
So it’s an issue he cares about, and with which he sympathizes.
As do others — the Community Against Social Injustice group had quickly garnered nearly 1,000 members within about 48 hours as of Saturday afternoon.
The planned June 7 protest was inspired by the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis and Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, along with anybody who’s been unjustly killed or arrested.
Their deaths produced horror and righteous indignation across a huge swath of the nation.
Chelsea Bianchi, 25, of Le Roy is one of the protest’s co-organizers. She said they’d seen similar gatherings across the nation and asked why they couldn’t do the same locally.
But again — peacefully. The protest is meant for everybody, and the organizers have reached out to police to be present and a part of it.
Bianchi said African American people have long been fighting for equality and against injustice, and people — all citizens — need to help them in their struggle now more than ever.
“We firmly believe that what has happened throughout our country’s history within the African American community is wrong,” she said. “All ethnicities need to come together and stand side by side and fight for the rights and protection of our brothers and sisters that are African American.
“This wasn’t only made because of George Floyd,” she continued. “Don’t forget about Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Walter Scott, Terrence Crutcher, Philando Castile, Samuel Dubose, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tamir Rice, Phillip White, Tracy Wade, Billy Ray Davis, Wayne Wheeler, Alonso Smith, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Freddie Gray, David Felix, Paterson Brown, Michael Lee Marshall, Dominic Hutchinson, Jermaine Benjamin, Jamar Clark, Tiara Thomas, Roy Nelson, Marcus Clark, Michael Noel, Kevin Matthews, Keith Childress, Bertie Jones ... the list continues.”
The planned peaceful protest has the potential to make a major impact on residents in the city and surrounding community, and create dialogue among those who may not currently believe how major an issue oppression and systemic racism really is, she said.
“We are hoping for a large amount of people to attend, peacefully,” Bianchi said. “All ages are welcome as we fully intend for this protest to be an educational experience for children and adults alike. The rules of our protest is to keep it as peaceful as possible. We do not condone violence or destruction of any kind.”
Anybody acting out of bounds will be removed, she said.
The protest was organized and announced before Saturday’s chaos in Rochester and Buffalo.
Paradise said the organizers plan to continue. He aims to do everything in his power to make sure any potential for trouble is as minimal as possible.
The protests in Buffalo and Rochester were snapped together and ill-organized, he said. Batavia’s peaceful protest has had rules and regulations from the start.
You can’t replace fear with fear, Paradise said. The aim is to have the community show up as leaders, with children being allowed at the parents’ discretion.
It’s also why they’ve reached out to police and invited them participate.
In effect, it’s aimed as a demonstration of the community’s decency.
“The most important part of this thing is to bring the community up, not destroy it,” Paradise said. “Anybody who would take it in a negative direction like looters or rioting, any damage of any sort,” they will be removed. We will not tolerate it. At the end of the day people need a lot more leaders, and lot more people will follow people who are just doing right thing.”
The peaceful protest is set for noon on June 7 at 1 Batavia City Centre. Those interested can also check the Community Against Social Justice page on Facebook.
“It’s pointless to fight fear with fear,” Paradise said. “The only way to open minds is to educate. The only way to close minds is to scare.”