When Ren Hammond saw the Confederate flags and the Trump 2020 and White Lives Matter signs on display Saturday on South Main Street in Bryan, across from the Walmart entrance, she knew she had to do something.
Hammond, 14, a freshman at Bryan High School this coming school year, messaged her friend Tatum Blatteau, also a 14-year-old BHS freshman.
“It really (ticked) me off. I told Tatum, and we decided to come out here (Sunday), right across from where they were,” Hammond said, explaining that the idea is to show their support publicly for the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as gay and transgender people.
They made homemade signs and set up on the corner in front of the McDonald’s on Sunday as a counterprotest. On Monday, Blatteau and Hammond returned and were joined by their friend Cassandra Nichols, also 14 and a student with the K-12 online school.
“We just feel like a lot of people are being denounced. It’s like Black culture doesn’t matter ... it isn’t respected or accepted by the white culture,” Blatteau said.
“People say that Black Lives Matter brainwashes teens ... that it’s racist. We disagree with that,” added Hammond, who said she is biracial and identifies as gay and transgender.
Hammond and Blatteau said they’ve received much support, with passersby honking their horns and giving them the thumbs up sign. But they’ve also been somewhat surprised at how much hostility they’ve experienced, including name-calling and several instances of what they consider threats and attempts to intimidate them.
“We’ve had people flipping us off, calling us names. One woman was videotaping us. Then she came up to us and called us (prostitutes),” Blatteau said.
Both said a man parked next to them in the McDonald’s parking lot, got out of the car and hurled insults at them.
“Before he left he said he was going to come back and unleash the purge on us,” Hammond said, as Blatteau nodded in agreement.
Hammond and Blatteau also said they were dismayed at the amount of hostility and negative comments they were subject to on a local social media page.
“It was just a lot of hate,” Blatteau said, showing a reporter her phone with one of the messages that she said has since been deleted.
Hammond and Blatteau said an unidentified Bryan police officer visited them Sunday, was very pleasant and even brought them some ice on a day when the temperature was in the high 80s. They said he was friendly and reminded them they could be on the public sidewalk and to be respectful if someone needed to walk by them.
“As long as everybody is civil, and stays on the sidewalk and where they’re supposed to be, we have no problem. It’s about taking everybody’s safety into consideration,” Bryan Police Chief Chris Chapa said Monday.
Hammond, Blatteau and Nichols said they intended to join an ongoing Black Lives Matter protest on Bryan’s courthouse square later on Monday evening.
“It’s not just Black Lives Matter; white lives matter; gay rights matter,” said Hammond, who noted she has first-hand experience at facing hostility both at school and with her family for being gay, transgender and biracial.
“No one stops it. No one cares. The older generation says do something (to affect positive change), so we’re doing something,” she said.