Written by Pauline Mikhail, Staff Writer
#LaGenteUnidas – “The United People” – is not just a trending hashtag to the Latinx community. Their unity with the Black Lives Matter movement means protesting police brutality and racism alongside other BLM supporters.
One such supporter is Yanira Fuentes Barajas, a Latinx resident of Charlotte, North Carolina. She attended a protest in the days following the Sep 20 death of Keith Lamont Scott, a black man fatally shot by police.
She explained, “I took part of the protest because I believe it was wrong what was done to Keith Lamont Scott. He was the wrong suspect and got killed being unarmed.”
Standing by her beliefs meant risking police confrontation.
“The first night [Sep 23] was pretty intense… There was a time during the protest when we all laid on the floor in front of Uptowns Police Department,” said Fuentes, who stayed with protesters an hour after the midnightcurfew. “Once it hit 12 [AM], riot officers came in [police] cars with zip ties and were armed and ready to arrest people… I was kind of scared, to be completely honest.”
This was not the only frightening moment. “I was more nervous when we were approaching the Bank of America Stadium. Apparently, they said that if we got too close, riot officers would throw tear gas and start arresting immediately. I hugged and told my sister in law that I loved her and if we get separated to meet me atthe courthouse.”
However, curfew and the police officers did not stop her from coming back the next day. She wore a bandana on her face, made a “Latinxs with Black Lives Matter” sign, and brought a Mexican flag with her to the protest.
What was it that brought her back, despite the risks of arrest and tear gas? Empathy and solidarity. Latinxs for Black Lives Matter has been a way to connect people of different communities with similar experiences.
“I think everyone is involved in some way,” says Fuentes. “I am part of this movement because in the Latino-Hispanic culture, we go through similar situations.”