WORTHINGTON — About 25 local residents attended the regular Worthington City Council meeting Monday night to participate in a political demonstration.
The group did not disturb the council proceedings, but displayed signs that invited council members to pay attention to issues that affect people of color.
Their signs displayed a number of messages, such as: "You may choose to look the other way, but you can NEVER AGAIN say you didn't know"; "Silence says a lot more than you think"; and "I will not stay silent so that you can stay comfortable."
"This is a public meeting, so we feel like we're allowed to be here," Aida Simon told the council when Mayor Mike Kuhle inquired about the group's intentions. "We just want to see how you're going to represent us."
The activists didn't stay for the entire council meeting, but dispersed after about an hour.
Saleen Thepmontry, 16, and Jessenia Muniz, 15, explained Tuesday that the specific purpose of the gathering was to express displeasure about the recent events involving a Worthington police officer and a person of color who was allegedly beaten.
"It's unfair ... the student officer didn't have the right to get out of the vehicle," Thepmontry said.
"There should be consequences for his actions," Muniz added. "And I think the cop should be punished because he didn't tell the student cop to stay in the vehicle."
The young women noted that this is not the first recorded occurrence of police brutality in Worthington. They called for actions to be taken to precipitate lasting change.
"When it's the white man, they defend him," Thepmontry said, "but when it's my brown brothers and sisters, they quickly criminalize us and take away our humanity.
"We just want to continue to organize and make noise to let them know that people of color have power," Thepmontry noted. "Even if they don't listen to us, we are going to keep fighting."
Following the council meeting, City Administrator Steve Robinson invited remaining representatives from the group to contact him and explain their concerns.
"I am interested to hear what you have to say," Robinson said.
Thepmontry and Muniz said Robinson's response may be a positive outcome if it results in action.