KENDI: A Group of Protestors Are Being Hunted and Harassed. We Have to Help Them.

Right now, a group of Black Lives Matter activists are marching from Milwaukee to Washington D.C. to attend the ”Get Off Our Necks” Commitment March on Washington. Led by activist and organizer Frank Nitty, the march is composed of men, women and children. They have been on this brave journey since August 4.

On August 25, as night began to fall in Bedford, Pennsylvania, two white men assumed to be related stepped out of a house and confronted the group, one toting a long rifle.

Cortez Rice and Tim Williams, both nephews of George Floyd, not by blood, but by loyalty as George would always tell them, are traveling with a separate group under the name “United We Walk.” They’ve crossed paths with Nitty and his team multiple times on the trek to D.C.

Cortez told The North Star that the man with a rifle shouted, “You niggers get up out of here!” before openly firing at the group. In a video posted to social media, Nitty explains that his friend and fellow protestor was shot in the face, then immediately taken to the hospital where he was detained by police and denied visitors. He was not released until Nitty involved an attorney.

Fortunately, the man who was shot did not sustain life threatening injuries.

Local authorities confirmed the shooting did take place, but no charges have been brought against the shooter. Police claim there was gunfire from both sides, but all of the marchers deny this, and there is no evidence to back the police claims.

The group of marchers checked into a nearby hotel to rest.

The next day, their arrival to Bedford, Pennsylvania, was publicized by local news outlets that painted their peaceful march to be one fueled by rage and violence. A group of locals, mostly white men, many of them armed with large guns, surrounded the county courthouse in an attempt to deter the marchers from continuing, WJAC-TV reported.

And it only got worse from there.

That night, the location of the hotel where the group was staying was somehow released to the public. In a series of Facebook live streams on Nitty’s page, different members speculated that it was the police who released their location to encourage news reporters and white supremacists to show up and harass them.

Whoever leaked their location achieved their intended results.

The hotel was soon surrounded by armed locals and some police officers in what looked to be unmarked cars. Law enforcement offered no support to the terrified marchers, but appeared to serve the same purpose as the gun wielding locals, to intimidate.

Shots were fired outside of their hotel, serving as a dangerous warning to the protesters inside.

Cortez Rice captured the incident on his Facebook live stream.

“I’m hurt in my soul right now. Deep down in my soul right now. I’m not alright man” Cortez said in his livestream. “We’re walking for peace, equality, justice, strength and love. Against racism. Against police brutality. Against gun violence. They’re tryna take it away from us man.”

Against a shadowy night sky, his gold grill gleaming against the light of his fluorescent phone screen, Cortez stoped for a moment and took a heavy breath. It’s as if the thousands of people viewing this live were looking in on a deeply personal moment. It almost feels like an invasion of privacy to bear witness.

Yet, the need for this to be live streamed is deeply understood.

If the armed white supremacists surrounding the hotel decided to use their bullets as more than a warning, if the police who are so complicit in these terrorist acts decided to participate in the violence, there needed to be record of it.

An anxiety pervades the stream, and it felt like we were watching the start of some impending tragedy.

Viewing it, I am eerily reminded of the Freedom Rides of the Civil Rights Movement, when groups of activists rode on buses through the South to protest the segregation of transportation facilities. They were met with some of the worst violence of the entire era.

Reflecting on that moment in history, it is easy to recognize the freedom riders for the heroes they were.

It is harder to recognize the heroes of the present, but I am calling on everyone to do so now.

These people are our freedom riders, and they need our help. We cannot look back at this moment and wish we’d done more. We cannot let them continue on this dangerous journey alone. They need to know they’ve got the support of the movement behind them.

How To Help

Donate to the group's fund #UnitedWeWalk founded by Cortez Rice & Tim Williams:

  • Cashapp: $UnitedWeWalk

  • PayPal:

Follow these brave protestors as they continue their journey:

Raise awareness. Share posts on social media, send this article to your friends, let the marchers know we’ve got their backs and let those trying to stop them know the whole world is watching.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this article stated that the two groups, one led by Cortez Rice and Tim Williams and the other led by Frank Nitty, were traveling together. They are not. The article has been updated to reflect that the two groups are not traveling together.