HAMPTON, Va. (WVEC) – They’re ready to make their voices heard, again.
For the second year in a row, demonstrators hit the streets of Hampton Roads in full force.
At 7:57 Monday night, participants walked down major streets in Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk, Portsmouth And Virginia Beach.
It was all part of the local Black Lives Matter movement.
The #shutdown757 marches across Hampton Roads were largely positive a year ago. This year, members with Blacklivesmatter757 are expecting an even bigger turnout.
Japharii Jones is the president of the organization. He's calling for unity in Hampton roads.
“The ultimate message is unity,” Jones says. “If you live here in Hampton Roads long enough you’ve seen a cycle of things happening, and everyone is tired.”
Jones is challenging participants to be a source for daily positive change in their communities.
However, not everyone agrees with how Jones and others plan to voice their concerns.
A Moyock, North Carolina volunteer firefighter used expletives in a Blacklivesmatter757 Facebook post, saying “nothing will be shut down” and he “hopes the demonstrators get run over.”
The Moyock Fire chief told 13News Now he is aware of the post and the firefighter has been suspended.
Norfolk resident Cody Baird spoke with Jones for a few moments Monday afternoon. While Baird has no problem with Jones and others demanding change, he has concerns about safety Monday night.
“Marching the streets is not the best idea to shut down the state,” Baird says. “They might be going about this is a way that’s less than constructive.”
Jones says their goal is getting a positive message out.
“Today we'll ask everyone how can you be a change in your community,” Jones says.
13News Now reached out to police departments in Newport News, Hampton, Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Portsmouth. Each are aware of the planned demonstrations and officers plan to be on scene.
Portsmouth Police Chief responded after the unity marchers in Portsmouth were greeted by dozens of officers in riot gear, a helicopter, as well as K-9 and mounted unites near the Downtown Tunnel:
"Tonight, members of the Portsmouth Police Department, Fire Department, Sheriff's Office and the Virginia State Police collaborated in an effort to serve our community in a very professional and admirable manner. We offered support and protection to those who wished to express their constitutional rights as we continued to serve and protect every citizen within the City of Portsmouth. As we reflect on tonight’s events, we are reminded that respect, trust, and communication are of the utmost importance in order to have a successful outcome for everyone. Every effort was made to communicate with leaders of the protest ahead of time to ensure their safety, to determine what their intentions were, and to set expectations. Tonight's events could have run more smoothly if protestors had communicated more openly with the Portsmouth Police Department. In the end, the protest in Portsmouth ended peacefully and the protestors were able to openly express their concerns through the guarantees afforded to all citizens."
The Coalition of Black Americans, the Portsmouth group leading the march, told 13News Now the march was meant to bring awareness to issues the black community face, as well as other minority communities.
"It's bigger than just us. This is America. We're supposed to help each other," said Rocky Hines, a co-leader of the march.
No one was arrested in Portsmouth.