A newly formed local Black Lives Matter chapter held discussions with local police on Tuesday evening before making posters for an upcoming protest.
The global organization was founded in 2013 in response to the death of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old killed during a struggle with Neighborhood Watch volunteer George Zimmerman.
The group's mission is to eradicate white supremacy and build local power to intervene in violence inflicted on black communities, according to the Black Lives Matter website.
Earlier this week the local chapter created a Facebook group that has since grown to over 300 members.
On Tuesday evening, a group of over 20 people met to create signs for an upcoming march at the H. Odell Weeks Activities Center on Saturday, joining a national trend of protesting against police brutality and racism following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
"We want everyone to have a chance to stand up for what’s right," Mackenzie Johnson, one of the group's organizers, said. "We hope to raise more awareness for this issue and that, yes, we are peaceful and that we intend to stay that way, but we’re also not going to stop until some things are changed and racism is the thing of the past."
Also in attendance at the meeting were Aiken Department of Public Safety officers, originally standing post for safety.
They were invited to participate in conversations with the public and answered questions regarding their thoughts of the current issues.
Aiken Department of Public Safety (@AikenDPS_SC) Sgt. Cody Ellison speaks about police brutality, prejudice, and how to respond to both at the first meeting of the new Black Lives Matter Aiken group.Take a listen —>CC: @matt_enfinger #GeorgeFloyd pic.twitter.com/v8WTSMvn4h— Colin Demarest (@demarest_colin) June 2, 2020
"There is no denying that police brutality occurs," Sgt. Cody Ellison with ADPS said. "It is our job as a supervisor to hold these officers accountable. When it does happen, the officer need to be held accountable."
As discussions closed, attendees were invited to make posters and flyers for Saturday's protest which is planned to be held at Odell Weeks at 6 p.m.
Tamber Watson, another organizer, hopes the protest will not only inform community but raise awareness of the issues at hand.
"Aiken isn’t as bad as a lot of places are, but we do have a little bit of separation sometimes," Watson said. "When you have a lack of understanding from someone else’s point of view, when you have that barrier broken things start to change. If we can do it together it really makes a big difference."