INDIANAPOLIS — The message from first responders taking part in Friday's Juneteenth peace walk is they feel the community's pain. They also want change. They are looking at the march as a step in the right direction.
"People want their lives recognized, they want their value to not be correlated to the color of their skin and at the end of the day it really just comes down to compassion and humanity," Gibran Williams, an Indianapolis firefighter, said.
Williams is also a member of the Indianapolis Black Firefighters Association. He's one of the driving forces behind the Juneteenth peace walk that is bring together law enforcement, firefighters and members of the community.
"I was working on Friday the first night of protests," Williams said. "I saw some of the damage being done through anger and frustration with the system."
Working with members of the IBFA and other minority public safety organizations, Williams said he started asking the question,' What can be done?' They also asked how can members of the public safety sector who also want change work with the community. The walk is a first step.
"We want to have the ability for people to see public safety not just as uniform and badges," Williams said. "See me as Gibran. I get off this fire engine. See me as Gibran coming to help you."
"Right now they are saying today from this day forward they are moving historically in the right direction, the past is the past," Sampson Levingston, a peace walk participant, said. "We all collectively today, the Juneteenth peace walk, we are moving forward peacefully."
"I'm excited for today and I'm excited for what the future hold for not just our public safety agencies but for our community as a whole," Maj. Ida Williams, of the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, said.
The peace walk ended at Kennedy King Park where a conversation took place with the focus on what's next. First respondersa nd community members, along with Mayor Joe Hogsett, discussed how everyone can work together to break the cycle of hate and end racism and violence.