It was Auburn’s turn Sunday to gather at Toomer's Corner and show solidarity with protesters across the country.
Over 500 people gathered on the corners of College St. and Magnolia Ave., chanting, waving signs and cheering for the dozens of cars honking their way through the intersection, all in response to recent civil unrest and the deaths of black Americans at the hands of police.
Auburn students helped distribute water and snacks in the sunny, hot conditions.
“We’ve been seeing problems like this for years, literally my entire life,” said Haylee Singleton. “It wasn’t brave to come down here and do what we could do help.”
Louisville native Kayla Krigger echoed that sentiment.
“I came down here like a day before those protests started, and I really wanted it to happen down here just to feel solidarity and not feel so alone,” said the new wildlife science graduate. “I came down to make sure everyone was taken care of and hydrated.”
The event came together as most participants expected.
“I think it was something that needed to be done, to stand up as a whole community, not just one color or one race, everybody stand up,” said Auburn resident Stephanie Jenkins. “This is exactly what I expected: no violence and no looting, just a peaceful march.”
Save for about five minutes when everyone moved into the middle of the intersection, traffic flowed easily through downtown Auburn, and there were no public safety incidents whatsoever.
Restrictions of social distancing were not much in evidence, however.
Auburn Mayor Ron Anders came through downtown in the early afternoon to see how everything was going. He was not at all surprised at the peaceful tone to the gathering.
“I knew that Auburn is the kind of community that does not tolerate racism and abuse, and they are very passion about that,” Anders said. “At the same time, they are very supportive and concerned about their community as a whole.
“What I witnessed this afternoon is a lot people who have come together because they are concern about what has happened in our country, and they want to express that concern and frustration. At the same time, they were very respectful to our downtown, to our businesses. They were throwing their trash away, and I hope that continues.”
Anders noted that the event, organized by local Unitarian minister Chris Rothbauer, came together “organically” and at the last minute – making the normal permitting process irrelevant.
Nonetheless, city police and other divisions were ready for the gathering whether they were needed or not. There was no discernible police presence among the crowds on the corners.
“It also makes me very grateful that we have such a great law enforcement culture in Auburn and in Lee County that the trouble we have seen in our country we have not been exposed to here locally,” Anders concluded.