Jim Embry is no stranger to taking to the streets of Richmond to demand that racial injustices be eradicated. That police brutality be eliminated. That there are truly equal rights for all.
The 71-year-old Embry has been involved in various Richmond protests since 1955.
And on Saturday afternoon, he, along with hundreds of others, took to Main Street once more to take part in the Black Lives Matter protest that remained peaceful with no incidents at the county courthouse.
"I have been out here on this street for about 65 years demonstrating," he told The Register. "Since the Jim Crow era … so I have been out here since I was a youngster protesting, demonstrating and so forth."
Like Embry, around 350 people of all backgrounds marched with Richmond police from the library on Fifth Street down to the courthouse lawn, leading chants of "Black Lives Matter," "Hands up, don't shoot," and reciting the names of recently slain George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
George Floyd was a black Minneapolis man who was killed after a former Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, ultimately ending his life.
Breonna Taylor, was a black woman from Louisville who was shot in her sleep after officers entered her home on a no-knock warrant.
One woman, Aubrey Valentine, carried a sign reading, "Silence is violence" and said she was there simply "because black lives matter."
"It is 2020, we should not be experiencing racial injustice," she said.
After arriving, several of the group's young organizers held a moment of silence, laying their bodies on the ground for eight minutes and 46 seconds, remembering those who were victims of police brutality.
"We are out here to protect the union, and not just after someone gets killed," Embry said.
He also said he was out there to support the young organizers, and all the young protestors who took the initiative to organize the event.
Also in attendance to show their support for the protest and its ideals was Richmond Police Chief James Ebert and Richmond Mayor Robert Blythe, who both gave speeches.
"Today gives us the opportunity to start a conversation, identify problems and work towards a solution," Ebert said. "When I look around this crowd today, I see people. People from different families, professions and beliefs. People coming together asking for change. Standing shoulder to shoulder, working together, united for one purpose.
"I see Richmond."
Blythe called the sight "overwhelming," saying there was "spirit of love in the city of Richmond."
"We are here in the interest of justice for all people," he said at the start of his comments. "We are here in the interest of peace and unity in our city. We are here to properly exercise the First Amendment of the United States Constitution, mainly the right of the people to peacefully assemble."
Additionally, he said, everyone must remain focused in their efforts to address police policy and correct the issue of public safety taking place across the nation.
"Today the tragic deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor are utmost in our minds, but, don't forget that there are many others. And it is not about any one of them, but it is about all of them. That is our focus."
The mayor said in the days to come, work needs to be done. He encouraged people to take part in their government, and not just complain to officials.
"Work to bring about needed change, volunteer to help those in the community and support worthy causes, and here is the big one — VOTE," he said. "It is important that persons who are elected share the positions that we support here today. If we want good police officers, then elect the people who will hire good police officers.
"That is what voting is about."
Shaela Worsley, one of several organizers of the event and one of many speakers, read a stand alone poem about change and encouraged people to vote, as well.
"...This is America ... We have got to do better, we have got to do better," she said. "They have to do better. We want a change, but what are you willing to do for that?"
She then pointed to a voter registration table set up nearby saying, "If you are not registered to vote, you need to be running over there," she said.
Embry said while voting and peaceful demonstration were essential to change, there was again, more work to be done.
He related the situation to a quilt, saying it was one of many pieces, but that a lot of other squares needed to fit to complete the quilt.
"It takes many pieces of the quilt to create a society of America which includes liberty and justice for all," Embry said. "Voting is a piece of that. We need to make sure people leave here and they understand, what other parts of the quilt should we be involved in after we leave today."
The longtime activist said the recent deaths weren't the first time African Americans were "not able to breathe."
"We haven't been able to breathe for 400 years," he said. "… We can't breathe the sweet air of beautiful freedoms of society. We can't breathe through the segregation … and black killings.
"We want to breathe."
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter @TaylorSixRR.