SAULT STE. MARIE — A protest took place in the downtown Sault area on Monday evening in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and to bring awareness to police brutality across the country.


The recent protests stem from an incident in Minneapolis where a black man, George Floyd, was detained by police and subsequently died on May 25. The arrest was made after he was accused of using a counterfeit $20 bill at a local market and physically resisted arrest, according to police.


Two autopsies of Floyd were later conducted and both ruled that Floyd's death was a homicide. According to the Hennepin County Medical Examiner, it was concluded that Floyd died from a cardiac arrest while being restrained by law enforcement officers.


All four officers were fired the day after the incident happened. On May 29, the police officer who restrained Floyd, Derek Chauvin, was charged with third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. The other three officers at the scene that day have not been charged with any crimes as of June 1.


Three women from the Sault area, Miranda Schomberg, Lauren Anderson and Brianna Lyons, created and organized the local protest event on Facebook. All of them know one another on a personal level.


"(Lyons) and (Schomberg) are some of my best friends," said Anderson. "We were all heartbroken over the murder of George Floyd and countless other black American citizens, we felt we needed to do something to show the nation that our community cares."


Schomberg, 18, is a Sault native and a student at Central Michigan University. Anderson is also 18 and is a sophomore at Lake Superior State University. Brianna Lyons is 20, is Native American and is going into her senior year of college at Lake State.


Anderson said the protest was organized as a peaceful event, and the three women have encouraged people with any motives of violence not to participate. Anderson said the goal was to let people in the black communities in Michigan and all across the nation know that their voices are being heard, they are being seen and that they stand with them even if they cannot be there directly.


"I think (we) want people to know that even in a small community, we see black people being murdered by police in the U.S. and we are just as angry and want to take action," said Schomberg. "I don’t think white people should be taking advantage of this distraction (referring to the looting and vandalism of businesses). I’ve seen a lot of reports circulating and a lot of videos of people who are definitely taking advantage of it. I see why black people are angry, they have every right to be. I saw a quote in a Buzzfeed article from a man whose business got burned down in Minneapolis and he said ‘We can rebuild a building, but we can’t give this man back to his family.’"


Over 100 peaceful protesters attended the Sault event at the corner of Portage and Ashmun on Monday. While many cars drove by honking their support, there were also some onlookers who disagreed with the protesters. Some spectators said there were some police officers who showed their support.


Schomberg has a message to police all around the country: Listen and be willing to learn and adapt.


"Don’t automatically put on riot gear when most protests start as just a peaceful protest until people get angry and scared," she said. "Listen to what they have to say and why they are there."


The Sault Ste. Marie Chief of Police gave a comment about this matter to the Sault News.


"I would estimate that the number of protesters at Ashmun and Portage was over 100," said John Riley. "I thank all of them for their effort to make their voices heard for the tragedy in Minneapolis last week while keeping the event peaceful with no disruptive activity, as we’ve seen throughout the country. The three young ladies that hosted the event are to be commended for their outstanding work."


"I think it’s important to note that if you are white and passionate that something needs to change, make sure you listen to the black people around you," said Schomberg. "Don’t just go off of what you think is best, get a second opinion. A lot of times people will try to do something that is supposed to help, but it doesn’t end up helping or it comes off as inconsiderate … We aren’t doing this (protest) for praise or accolades. We’re doing this because we are angry and we see people hurting and being murdered. White people shouldn’t have to get praise for doing the right thing."


Anderson commended the amount of participation from Native Americans around the area and described it as "incredible."


Lyons also said that small communities need to care about these issues because they do not only happen in the bigger cities, but it happens everywhere.


"Racism is everywhere, and we need to put an end to it," Lyons said. "I would like to say thank you to all of the people who have done nothing but support and love everyone for who they are. Thank you for taking the time to acknowledge that there are problems in our justice system, and that change needs to happen in order for people to stop being murdered. Thank you for standing up for what is right. Secondly, I would like to tell the people who believe that racism is dead and that ‘all lives matter’ that it’s true, all lives do matter, but right now our black community is the one hurting — they have been for many many years, and you can either stand up and end the hurt and pain that they have endured for so long, or you can remain silent. Ignorant. Also, racism is far from dead, and if anyone disagrees, that alone shows ignorance in itself. As a Native American woman, I have endured first hand racism by many people, to my face and over social media. Trust me, it’s still well and thriving. Let’s end it."


There will be a second protest from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, June 3, at the same corner of Portage and Ashmun.


The Sault News also reached out to city manager Brian Chapman about this matter but received no response by the time of publication.