IMPACT

28 Protest Images From Small Cities And Towns Across The U.S.

The protests against police brutality and systemic racism are spreading to smaller cities and towns. Here's how to organize one yourself.

Protests over police brutality and systemic racism aren’t just happening in big cities; they’re happening everywhere in America ― including in places where voters turned out in large numbers for President Donald Trump in 2016, in predominantly white, rural small towns. 

According to The New York Times, protests sparked by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month have spread to more than 2,000 cities and towns in all 50 states, as well as in over 60 countries. The protests are largely peaceful, with demonstrators echoing the chants and messages you hear in bigger cities. (“Hands up. Don’t shoot.” “Black lives, they matter here!” “I can’t breathe.”)

Earlier this month, Hope and Dwaylon Davis organized a Black Lives Matter protest in Benton, Kentucky, a town of about 4,500 that is 97% white. They got the word out over social media and with a little help from a local newspaper that wrote about the protest plans. In spite of some pushback from people in the community, about 300 came out.

“We received as much opposition as we did support,” Hope told HuffPost. “Prior to our peaceful protest, I was told there had never been a civil rights protest or march here. We learned you just have to keep your head up and try to stay positive.” 

Protesters, especially those in small towns, tend to hold their events in “traditional public forums” (sidewalks, parks, plazas in front of government buildings) where the right to protest is the most obvious, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Many small-town protests are organized with the knowledge and support of city councils and law enforcement authorities. Davis said her group didn’t seek permission from the local government, but it did inform officials of their plans. 

“We did not obtain a permit, although we did block the flow of traffic at some points,” Hope said. “We contacted the mayor, city police chief, as well as the sheriff. They were all willing to work with us and met any request we had.”

The dialogue paid off.

“Good communication with these departments as well as fire, [emergency medical services] and state police proved to be instrumental in keeping everyone safe while we protested,” Hope said. 

With many counties still reporting new cases of COVID-19 every day, social distancing is another thing organizers often stress when getting the word out.

In South Pasadena, California, a town to the northeast of Los Angeles with a population of 25,000, organizers from South Pasadena Youth for Police Reform have hosted multiple protests during the week and on the weekends. Early on, the group set ground rules on Instagram that emphasized social distancing.

“If you want to plan a protest yourself, I’d say to figure out a way to social distance,” said London Lang, a co-organizer of the ongoing protests. “People love that you’re thinking about them as well.”

Lang said his group did call the police department beforehand to see if it was OK if they laid out duct tape on spots on the pavement to encourage social distancing. 

The group continues to hold protests. “It’s grown from three people to 50 approximately,” he said. “It’s always growing by the day.”

In Chino Hills, a slightly larger suburb of Los Angeles located in San Bernardino County, organizers didn’t want to have to travel all the way to L.A. to show their support for racial justice. 

One of the organizers, Assata, who asked that we use her first name only for her privacy, said connecting with Instagram accounts with larger followings has been essential to getting the word out. (For instance, the Chino Hills protests have been promoted on @justiceforgeorgela, an Instagram group with 4,207 followers that aggregates protest plans across the Los Angeles region.)

“Building with other protests and asking people to tag us in pictures has been important,” she said. “A lot of people still don’t know that there are protests safe enough to bring your children to in the Inland Empire, so the pictures go a long way.”

Outside of social media, just having a presence on the corner draws out people who also want to participate. 

“We chant and ask drivers to honk for support,” she said. “One event the sheriffs passed out candy, and they no longer prepare down the street in riot gear, so I think the city is starting to understand.”

Scroll down to see photos from more protests held in small towns across the U.S. 

Makyla Bard, right, is comforted by other protesters in Decatur, Alabama, as she chants, "Say his name," during a peaceful pr
Makyla Bard, right, is comforted by other protesters in Decatur, Alabama, as she chants, "Say his name," during a peaceful protest May 31 over the police killing of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis.
Protesters raise their fists as Bishop Freddie Marshall of Christ Cathedral of the Triad speaks using a bullhorn in Greensbor
Protesters raise their fists as Bishop Freddie Marshall of Christ Cathedral of the Triad speaks using a bullhorn in Greensboro, North Carolina, on May 30.
People gather to protest in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, on June 1 following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapol
People gather to protest in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire, on June 1 following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Protesters rally outside the Mesa Police Department on June 9 in Mesa, Arizona, to demand police reform.
Protesters rally outside the Mesa Police Department on June 9 in Mesa, Arizona, to demand police reform.
Patrolwoman Brittany Mang in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, gets a hug from a protester outside Carbondale City Hall during a Blac
Patrolwoman Brittany Mang in Carbondale, Pennsylvania, gets a hug from a protester outside Carbondale City Hall during a Black Lives Matter peaceful protest on June 6.
Jemel Black and his 11-year-old daughter, Tyarah, kneel June 6 with other protesters in Great Barrington, Massachusetts,
Jemel Black and his 11-year-old daughter, Tyarah, kneel June 6 with other protesters in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time that George Floyd was pinned to the ground with a white police officer's knee on his neck.
Protesters gather on the steps of the City-County Building in Helena, Montana, on May 29 in solidarity with nationwide protes
Protesters gather on the steps of the City-County Building in Helena, Montana, on May 29 in solidarity with nationwide protests over the police killing of George Floyd.
A protester uses a megaphone June 10 while blocking a street outside the police station in Florissant, Missouri. Several hund
A protester uses a megaphone June 10 while blocking a street outside the police station in Florissant, Missouri. Several hundred protesters were calling attention to a video that appears to show a Florissant police detective, who has since been fired, striking a man with his police car during a recent pursuit.
Frances Smith of Spirit Lake, Idaho, shouts during a June 2 protest in Coeur d'Alene over the killing of George Floyd.
Frances Smith of Spirit Lake, Idaho, shouts during a June 2 protest in Coeur d'Alene over the killing of George Floyd.
Shawn Jackson, 33, of Murray, Kentucky, takes part in a June 5 protest in Benton. At one point during the protest, demonstrat
Shawn Jackson, 33, of Murray, Kentucky, takes part in a June 5 protest in Benton. At one point during the protest, demonstrators laid down in the road around the Marshall County Courthouse, invoking the memory of George Floyd's death in police custody in Minneapolis.
Several hundred demonstrators observe a moment of silence for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality as they gath
Several hundred demonstrators observe a moment of silence for George Floyd and other victims of police brutality as they gather to peacefully protest in Addison, Texas, a Dallas suburb, on June 4.
A peaceful protest is held June 3 on Fair Oaks Avenue in South Pasadena, California, near Los Angeles.
A peaceful protest is held June 3 on Fair Oaks Avenue in South Pasadena, California, near Los Angeles.
Protesters hold signs at a rally at a park in Lawrence, Kansas, on May 31 over the death of George Floyd and other Black vict
Protesters hold signs at a rally at a park in Lawrence, Kansas, on May 31 over the death of George Floyd and other Black victims of police violence.
A candlelight vigil begins at the Bee Branch Creek area in Dubuque, Iowa, on June 5. A silent march and the candlelight vigil
A candlelight vigil begins at the Bee Branch Creek area in Dubuque, Iowa, on June 5. A silent march and the candlelight vigil were held in response to the May 25 death of George Floyd and in remembrance of others who have suffered from police brutality.
Lt. Alex Reno, of the Hampton, New Hampshire, police department, right, and Deputy Chief Kevin Gelineau, of the Seabrook, New
Lt. Alex Reno, of the Hampton, New Hampshire, police department, right, and Deputy Chief Kevin Gelineau, of the Seabrook, New Hampshire, police department, center, take a knee as they join with protesters during a June 1 rally on Hampton Beach.
Protesters take part in a socially distanced breathing exercise at Miller Park Chattanooga, Tennessee, on June 1.
Protesters take part in a socially distanced breathing exercise at Miller Park Chattanooga, Tennessee, on June 1.
In Fredericksburg, Virginia, police officers, including Uyurre Brown-Kaleopaa, center, join protesters in a June 2 march. Bla
In Fredericksburg, Virginia, police officers, including Uyurre Brown-Kaleopaa, center, join protesters in a June 2 march. Black officers find themselves torn between two worlds when it comes to the protests against police brutality happening around the U.S.
Demonstrators in support of Black Lives Matter leave Riverfront Park on their way to march across the Monroe Street Bridge on
Demonstrators in support of Black Lives Matter leave Riverfront Park on their way to march across the Monroe Street Bridge on June 7 in downtown Spokane, Washington.
Protesters march during a June 3 rally at Cesar Chavez Park in Laveen, Arizona.
Protesters march during a June 3 rally at Cesar Chavez Park in Laveen, Arizona.
Black Lives Matter protesters gather June 1 outside the Glenwood Springs City Hall and Garfield County Sheriff's Office in Gl
Black Lives Matter protesters gather June 1 outside the Glenwood Springs City Hall and Garfield County Sheriff's Office in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.
Demonstrators participate in a "paddle out" in the memory of George Floyd at Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz, California, on June
Demonstrators participate in a "paddle out" in the memory of George Floyd at Cowell Beach in Santa Cruz, California, on June 7.
Protesters attend a Black Lives Matter demonstration June 2 at the city hall and police department in Clifton, New Jersey.
Protesters attend a Black Lives Matter demonstration June 2 at the city hall and police department in Clifton, New Jersey.
Emily Croft, 17, a student at Stillwater High School, greets a participant June 3 in Stillwater, Oklahoma, at a rally to prot
Emily Croft, 17, a student at Stillwater High School, greets a participant June 3 in Stillwater, Oklahoma, at a rally to protest the death of George Floyd. Croft organized the peaceful rally.
Protesters march June 8 in Boca Raton, Florida.
Protesters march June 8 in Boca Raton, Florida.
Chelsea Shag holds up a sign as demonstrators protest June 5 across the street from a Confederate memorabilia store in Kennes
Chelsea Shag holds up a sign as demonstrators protest June 5 across the street from a Confederate memorabilia store in Kennesaw, Georgia.
People from several area churches gather June 9 to pray together in the parking lot of Evangel Church in Hanover Park, Illino
People from several area churches gather June 9 to pray together in the parking lot of Evangel Church in Hanover Park, Illinois, in what was planned as a nonpolitical spiritual event, rather than a protest, in memory of George Floyd.
Demonstrators march June 6 in Bend, Oregon, to protest racism and police brutality.
Demonstrators march June 6 in Bend, Oregon, to protest racism and police brutality.
Lee Cottrill and Cheryl Cockrell hold up signs during the "Breathe Through Me Peace Rally" in Meridian, Mississippi, on June
Lee Cottrill and Cheryl Cockrell hold up signs during the "Breathe Through Me Peace Rally" in Meridian, Mississippi, on June 6. The event aimed to address racial injustice following the May 25 death George Floyd when he was restrained in police custody in Minneapolis.