An estimated 200 people joined the Friday, June 5, sit-in at the Hamilton County Courthouse organized by Colleen Trzybinski

GUEST COLUMN: Colleen Trzybinski, Sit-in protest organizer

LOVELAND, OH (June 11, 2020) – On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis Police Department after Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.  

Colleen Trzybinski, Loveland, OH – organized sit-in and participated in protest marches in Cincinnati (Provided)

On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was murdered by the Minneapolis Police Department after Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.  On March 13, 2020, Breonna Taylor was murdered by the Louisville Police Department. They shot her 8 times in her sleep.  On February 23, 2020, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered by a former police officer and his son. He was shot solely on the premise of being a Black man.  These names, along with countless others, are proof systemic racism is alive and well in the United States.  The outrage sparked from these murders has set in motion the beginning of a revolutionary movement committed to ending police brutality and systemic racism in all forms.  The Black Lives Matter movement is supported all over the globe in the fight to end systemic and individual racism. 

Colleen Trzybinski joined protesters during march in Cincinnati Sunday, June 7 (Courtesy Colleen Trzybinski)

Protests in Cincinnati began Friday, May 29, 2020 and have continued with no end in sight.  The first protest for this movement I attended was Sunday, May 31, 2020 at Inwood Park.  After seeing pictures and videos of police shooting rubber bullets and tear gassing protesters just 30 minutes away from where I live, I will admit I was nervous.  I had read-up on protest safety and knew my rights, but I still could not shake the pit of fear in my stomach as I reached out to friends asking if they would go with me.  A lot of the responses I got were something along the lines of “my parents won’t let me” or “I’m scared it’ll be violent”, which are valid, but there is immense privilege in having the option to simply be shielded away from violence like that.  

As a white woman, I have an immense amount of privilege and it is my responsibility to use it in a way that supports Black lives and amplifies voices that have been silenced for centuries.  As a speaker at the June 7, protest said, “privilege is capital, and white people have the responsibility to spend that capital in a way that protects Black lives”. 

Spending my privilege the best way I know how, I attended the protest at Inwood Park.  I was expecting to have confrontations with the police, get tear gassed, see looting, but the news lied to me.  The protest was a march through Cincinnati with no arrests and no police confrontations.  People were constantly checking in on each other, handing out water and snacks along the way, and just generally being good people. 

Protester Jordan Ford displays a sign remembering Breonna Taylor (Courtesy Colleen Trzybinski)

The next day, June 1, I went to the protest at the Hamilton Courthouse that ended with a march through downtown.  This one was louder but still peaceful.  The Cincinnati Police Department (CPD) was there in full riot gear and the SWAT team lined the streets, with several instances in which white allies were called to the front to protect Black protesters from harm.  This one was more personal, with protesters calling on the CPD to have humanity and to remember what they did to Timothy Thomas.  It was a call for CPD to have accountability for their brutality against Black citizens and their role in the gentrification (and subsequent displacement) of Black and Brown communities from Over-

The-Rhine.  Marching through the streets of Cincinnati on June 1, I saw the beginnings of protest art in the streets with words calling out for anti-racism and screaming that Black lives matter. 

On Tuesday, I asked some friends if they’d be interested in organizing a sit-in at the Hamilton County courthouse to protest the murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and to support the newly shared demands from the NAACP for racial justice.  Jordan Ford, Clara Conover, Micah Blue, and I spread the word and contacted speakers, who include Dr. Kareem Moffett, councilperson Jeff Pastor, and others. 

Jordan Ford speaks to a group estimated to be 200 people at Hamilton County Courthouse sit-in organized by Colleen Trzybinski (Courtesy Colleen Trzybinski) 

The sit-in had a turnout of about 200 people who all came together to speak their truths, listen and learn, and make a statement outside the courthouse that police brutality and racism will not be tolerated any longer.  The biggest thing that I took away from the sit-in was when Dr. Moffett shared her 3 E’s of activism: engage, educate, and empower.  As activists (especially white allies), it is our job to have those uncomfortable conversations so change can happen at the individual level, too. 

I didn’t decide to organize a sit-in because I’ve experienced racism—obviously not, because I’m white.  I decided to organize a sit-in because I have a responsibility to amplify Black voices in my community, and I will do anything in my power to make sure Black voices are finally heard, and listened to, in the United States.  People are tired and hoarse and burnt, but they cannot stop.  I will walk until my legs give out and I will yell until my voice cannot be heard, because they can’t breathe. 

Timothy Thomas and Sam DuBose can’t breathe.

Breonna Taylor can’t breathe.  George Floyd can’t breathe. 

NOTE: Colleen Trzybinski currently resides in Loveland, Ohio at the home of her parents. She is a 19 year old graduate of Mount Notre Dame (Class of 2019) in Cincinnati and just completed her freshman year Loyola University, Chicago where she is majoring in sociology/psychology and focusing on social work as well. The preceding column is her personal account of organizing and participating in protests against racism and police brutality following the death of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis Police Officer at the end of May.