Minister calls for unity as peaceful protests continue
Gospel music and cheers rang throughout the center of town Saturday as hundreds of protesters gathered at Medina Public Square to take part in a rally and march in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and George Floyd, a Minnesota man who was killed May 25 after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.

The march was organized by the Rev. Arthur Ruffin of Second Baptist Church, 451 Bronson St., Medina. It was the second rally of the day in the square; the first was 1-3 p.m. Saturday.

Ruffin said his main goal for the protest was for it to be a display of faith-based unity and to show that changes can be made if everyone works together.

“We know that there is racial discrimination,” Ruffin said. “The (important) thing is voicing it, being honest and being open. That’s the only way we’re going to fix it. Let’s get together and say it’s real, it’s happening, let’s talk about it (and) let’s see how we can make a change.”

Ruffin said he was blown away by the large turnout and that he was thrilled to have the support of so many different people. Among those in attendance Saturday were Medina police Chief Ed Kinney, Medina County Sheriff Tom Miller, Medina Mayor Dennis Hanwell, state Rep. Steve Hambley, R-Brunswick, state Senate President Larry Obhof, R-Montville Township and several Medina City Council members.

“I’m shocked,” Ruffin said of the crowd. “I don’t even know how I got chosen, I’m just here. It’s good to have the following of the blacks, the whites, the browns, the yellows. We’re going to make the best of it.”

Following several religious songs before the march, Ruffin, joined by his family at the gazebo, spoke on why he organized this rally and said that, at first, he did not want to be a leader of a protest but like this but rather a follower. But after days of trying to “turn (his) back and trying not to look at” what happened to George Floyd and waiting for someone in the city to step up and lead, he said that “if I did not speak up, I would be just as guilty as the person who did it.”

He also gave several examples of why he said saying “Black Lives Matter” does not mean that other lives don’t, but rather that black lives are the ones that are in danger.

“We know that every life matters, we’re not saying that,” Ruffin said. “If there was a fire on your street and a house was burning down and the firemen came and you said, ‘Hey, stop. I want some water,’ but your house ain’t on fire, they’re going to say, ‘You’re not the one we’re coming to help. We’re helping the house that’s on fire. You don’t need no water cause your house ain’t on fire.’ Black lives are on fire.”

After his speech, which included portions from his wife and daughter, Hanwell took the microphone and addressed the crowd as well, saying he’s used these recent weeks to educate himself on what black people go through and encouraged the crowd to do the same.

“I’m white,” Hanwell said. “I’ve been white my whole life. I don’t understand what you all have to experience. If you don’t understand something, what better way (to learn) than to talk to folks who have been through it. Partner up with some of the people that have experienced this thing, understand their life stories and understand what we can do to avoid making the same mistakes over and over again.

“Medina has been a change agent in many regards on many things and there’s no reason in the world that we can’t change this.”

A minister led the crowd in a prayer for peace and changed hearts before the march began. Leading the crowd out and around the square were Ruffin and Kinney, who linked arms and smiled as they walked together.

Kinney called it “a beautiful show of unity.”

As was the case with Friday night’s and Saturday afternoon’s rallies, Ruffin’s march went off without any violence or negativity. The continued peacefulness of these protests is something Kinney said embodies the spirit of Medina residents.

“It’s Medina strong,” Kinney said. “Pride in Medina. The citizens came out and proved all the online scuttlebutt wrong. And I hope it continues that way. We have two more tomorrow and I’m optimistic that (they) will be peaceful as well.”

Ruffin said seeing the protests that have taken place over the weekend weekend and the number of people who have come out in support of them reiterate what he said about change coming when everyone works together.

“When you look around now, there is more of our white friends that are opening up their mouths today than ever before,” Ruffin said. “They’re no longer silent. They’re saying ‘enough is enough, we want justice just like you.’

“To all of our white friends, we thank you for standing with us. I thank you for trusting me to lead this because you didn’t have to do it. You could have been at home, you could have been like everyone else on social media (saying) ‘he’s crazy.’ I may be crazy, but I trust the man (God).

In closing his speech, Ruffin encouraged everyone to not focus on what has happened in the past, but rather put their energy into working for a better future.

“From this very movement, don’t worry about yesterday,” he said. “Don’t talk about what’s happening now. What’s happening today that we shall overcome and we will make it. I guarantee you that as long as God gives me breath, this is not the end.”