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Romeo — Responding to the painting of racial slurs on a landmark boulder, several hundred  people marched through Romeo on Friday in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.

As the energetic crowd moved through the streets, many pedestrians joined the protest. Others stood in support from the sidewalk or nearby restaurants, holding signs, taking videos, or showing solidarity with a closed fist.

One supporter, holding a sign that said “Love thy neighbor,” waited on the sidewalk for protesters to pass. As they did, he greeted them with elbow bumps and hugs.

Amanda Taylor, a former Romeo resident who helped organize the march, said the town came together after the rock, which residents usually paint with uplifting messages, was defaced with racial slurs less than one day after residents painted it with "Black Lives Matter."

Protests have spread across the country since George Floyd died May 25 after a Minneapolis police officer pinned the black man with his knee on his neck. 

Friday, this town of fewer than 4,000 residents in northern Macomb County joined them.

“I'm happy to see such a diverse crowd in this community which I grew up in supporting not only Black Lives Matter, but a change that needs to happen," said village resident Tanisha Webb, 47. "A change in policy and in representation.”

The march stopped at Romeo Village Park, where attendees heard from several residents about racism they've faced in the city.

Chris Brooks, a pastor at Woodside Bible Church, opened a series of speeches with a prayer.

“Ultimately, the justice we’re seeking comes from transforming hearts,” he said. “Justice is a long fight and a long road. Don’t get weary. Together, there is power in our unity.”

Kyle Webb, a 2016 graduate of Romeo High School, said he guarded the Romeo rock for three days after the Black Lives Matter message was painted over.

Taylor, who spoke after Webb, said the majority of people in Romeo won’t experience what racism is like even though others in the community have.

Despite that, “The dismissive mindset in this town is the minority. The majority is calling for change,” she said.

Taylor introduced Makayla Muxlow, a 10-year-old with a white mother and a black father. Muxlow’s speech drew lots of emotion and support from the crowd.

Muxlow recounted a story from her early childhood. At 3 years old, she was playing with two white children before their mother pulled them aside and explained they don’t play with “those children.”

“We are part of this community and we shouldn’t feel different,” Muxlow said. “It’s not right that we are scared to be black, to be ourselves.”

Muxlow invited attendees to a children’s protest she is organizing at 4 p.m. Saturday at the same park.

Andre Fullwood moved to Romeo as a child and graduated from its high school in 2008. Fullwood implored the white folks in the crowd to have more conversations about racism with their loved ones.

“We’re here to make the racists feel awkward,” he told the crowd. “We’re here to make the racists feel uncomfortable.”

“This is not right or left,” Fullwood added. “This is unity. This is, ‘I’m a human and I see you.’”

Organizers asked the crowd to come out for another demonstration at the Shelby Township hall at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday and removal of township police Chief Robert Shelide, who was put on leave June 4 after making inflammatory remarks on social media about protesters.

Organizers also announced they will fund a George Floyd scholarship to be awarded to a Romeo High student student who fights for justice and against racism.

The demonstration ended with 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence to represent how long Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck. Chauvin and three other officers who were at the scene have been charged in connection with Floyd’s death.

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