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Lathrop residents show support for Black Lives Matter movement
BLM fence
Names and descriptions of those who lost their lives to violence – from George Floyd to Oscar Grant – line the fence at the school site where the march concluded on Saturday.

When protests, marches, and rallies start popping up all over the country after the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Tara Sova started to look around Lathrop and River Islands to see when the local event would be taking place.

Every surrounding community had already held events as a show of solidarity, but the momentum to get an event off the ground in Lathrop stalled early on, resulting in a protest video that unified community leaders to send a message of solidarity.

When a social media post asking some in the community about holding an event garnered an unfavorable reaction and some not-so-nice comments about the nature of the effort, Sova said that she and a group of ladies from River Islands knew that it was something that had to happen – reaching out to Minnie Cotton Diallo, who had hit a roadblock in her organizing early on, to bring her into the group and help unify the community.

“I was waiting for something, and nothing was happening and when we posted something about organizing it a bunch of negative comments really sparked it – we knew then that it was something that we had to do,” said River Islands resident Tara Sova, who organized a group of Lathrop women to put the march together. “I hope that this is something that opens people’s eyes and hearts and allows people to listen – this is about coming together to make the world a better place for everybody and it’s great to see this many people that support that.”

Hundreds of people showed up on Saturday morning at Michael Vega Park to participate in the Black Lives Matter march through the streets of River Islands to culminate at a rally site at River Islands Technology Academy – where those in attendance danced, sang, and listened to speakers who spoke out injustice and the responsibility of everyone to stamp it out for a more equitable world.

While there was a time when Cotton Diallo didn’t think that something like this could happen in Lathrop, seeing so many people pulling together over the course of the last week to make the event a reality and watching hundreds of people all stand together in solidarity was enough to move her to tears.

As a lifelong Lathrop resident, Cotton Diallo said that she was proud of her community for pulling together and for leaders like Susan Dell’Osso and Lathrop Police Chief Ryan Biedermann for supporting the effort in every way possible.

“It’s amazing to be here and it’s such a blessing to see so many people from the community coming to stand in solidarity – it’s absolutely wonderful,” Diallo Cotton said. “To have the support that we’ve had from Lathrop Police Services and the Chief and everybody who has come out this morning.

“When they said no, the community said yes and I’m thankful for all of the people that helped put this together and make this a reality.”

The peaceful march from Michael Vega Park to the River Islands Technology Academy – through the streets of River Islands which were temporarily blocked along the route to provide security for the marchers – attracted a number of honks and waves from people who were passing by.

Chanting names like Brionna Taylor and George Floyd and vocally calling for an end to racism and the unification of all people to stand up against injustice the group included young children on bicycles and babies in strollers as people worked their way towards the rally point.

When they arrived, pictures of those who have been lost in violent episodes had been arranged on the fence of the school to remember their stories – a moving testament to the nature of the event itself.

For Lathrop Mayor Sonny Dhaliwal, even some of the signs that people were carrying prompted a closer look and a conversation about what it actually means and how traumatizing it is for the young people facing a world in which questions like these to be asked.

“I saw a young man today that was carrying a sign that asked, ‘am I next?’” Dhaliwal said. “We have to teach that youngster and put our arm around him and tell him that ‘no, you are not next.’ When our young people feel like they are not being heard, that is dangerous for our society.

“Every morning with the Pledge of Allegiance we say the five words ‘liberty and justice for all.’ George Floyd didn’t get the liberty he deserves, so he must get the justice.”

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.