He is alone, perched high in the night of Asheville. Derek climbed onto the raised base of the traffic light. In his hand he holds a “Black Lives Matter” sign asking for “Justice for Breonna Taylor”. In March, the 26-year-old was killed in her home by police in Louisville, Kentucky. In September, two of the three police officers involved in this case were exonerated by the courts. As for the third, he was only indicted for “endangering the life of others”.
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The place where the rebellious young man stands, in the central square of this North Carolina city of 93,000 inhabitants, is strongly symbolic: he took up a position in front of a granite obelisk more than 20 meters high, which makes tribute, since 1938, to a former governor of the time of the Civil War, owner of slaves and officer of the Confederate army. According to a local historian, he held important positions in the KKK. “An insult to blacks He said.
“We forget that this part of the city was black”
It was here, quite naturally, that the protests had spread to Asheville, like the rest of the country, after the death of George Floyd. The municipality has since promised to bring down the obelisk. First victory. And many downtown businesses display a “Black Lives Matter” sign in their window as a sign of solidarity against racism.
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The city is benevolent. Occasionally, horn blasts of support are heard. Invigorated, Derek then clenches his fist. “ I come several times a week, after work at the factory, says the young man, lower face masked, Covid-19 requires. I spend the evening. So that people don’t forget “.
But he remains alone. Cars drive past a few elegant terraces, those of luxury hotels. ” In the neighborhood, there are these beautiful buildings, these beautiful restaurants, loose Derek with a vague gesture of his free arm. We pass here every day, on foot, by car. But we forget that this part of the city, before, was black, and that blacks were driven out by “gentrification”, from the years 1960-1970. “
Derek, in his thirties, talks about a time he himself never knew. Neither here, nor even in Florida, where he is from. But whatever. ” I had been following Black Lives Matter for several years, he confides. Systemic racism is the great story of this country “. This evening, no one joined him on the lit step from which he ended up descending. But never mind: in a few days he will take up his position again here after leaving the factory.
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