Following the May 25, 2020 death of George Floyd at the hands of police, protests over racial inequality and race-motivated police brutality swept the United States and the globe. By June 2020, protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement after Floyd’s death had occurred in over 2,000 cities and 60 countries.
While most of these events were large gatherings, some of them were surprisingly small. The record for the smallest protest, a one-person event, occurred in Palm Beach, Florida as the result of a passionate octagenarian. What it lacked in size it made up for in commitment.
About Palm Beach
Palm Beach, Florida serves as the home to Mar-a Lago Resort, which is owned by President Trump and often referred to as the Winter White House. Politically-motivated protests are common around Mar-a-Lago, particularly when President Trump or members of his administration are on the property. A huge demonstration in support of the Black Lives Matter movement would have been expected, it was prepared for.
A Surprising Solo March
At the time of the protests, eighty-year-old interior designer Leta Foster had lived in Palm Beach for 48 years and was a married mother with six children and 10 grandchildren. On Tuesday, June 2, 2020, she marched in a Palm Beach demonstration to protest the death of George Floyd at the hands of police in Minnesota on Memorial Day. While it wasn’t unusual that she marched, it was surprising that she marched alone.
A solo march was not the outcome town administrators had expected. Nearby West Palm Beach Florida had a much larger demonstration that spilled out onto the highway and Palm Beach officials were ready for something similar. Expecting the worst, dozens of armed members of the Palm Beach Police and the Palm Beach County Sherriff’s Office blocked roads with vehicles and tactical and emergency response equipment.
Store owners on Worth Avenue installed hurricane shelters and boarded up their windows in preparation for the demonstration. The unflappable Foster did not board up her storefront. True, she hoped that her windows wouldn’t be damaged, but she also understood that protestors had bigger issues on their mind than the risk of broken glass. There was a risk of confrontation, violence, and property damage as had occurred elsewhere.
She Marched Alone And Passionately
“I’m so broken-hearted about our country right now.”
Despite the town administrator’s preparations, Leta Foster was the only person who showed up to make themselves heard. Bearing a sign that read “Black Lives Matter.” She had missed the West Palm Beach march a few days earlier and was determined not to miss another opportunity to be heard: “I would have marched on I-95 if I’d known about it,” she told the Palm Beach Daily News.
Foster wasn’t blind to the risk of participating in a protest march at the age of 80, but she wasn’t going to let those risks stand in the way of her voice being heard.
“I’m 80 years old. If I die, too bad.”
What message was Leta Foster trying to convey at the risk of her own life, marching alone in the face of armed police in response to race-fueled police brutality on the other side of the country? She told the Palm Beach Daily News that “it was important to show people that she had no hatred in her heart.” After all, “White people are not the only people.”
Undaunted by a lack of turnout, her inspiring actions are an example for others who want to make their voices heard regardless of age or circumstances.
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