Nearly two thousand people protested against police brutality and racial injustice in Providence on Sunday.

The protesters chanted "I can't breathe!" and "Get off my back!" as they marched from Kennedy Plaza to the State House.  At one point, they laid down in the middle of Francis Street to pay homage to George Floyd, a black man who died in Minneapolis police custody last month.  

Sunday's protest was organized by a new youth group known as Gen Z: We Want to Live, which was co-founded by two high school students.  One of them, 15-year-old Jaychele Nicole Schenck, addressed the many adult activists in the crowd.

"You guys have been fighting since before I was born.  Now it's our turn to continue this fight.  We're fighting for our lives."

Schenck says she's turned to activism as a way to seek racial equality.

"I haven't even graduated high school yet and I'm here leading a protest because nothing has changed!  It's nobody fault but the police, our government, and the systems that oppress us.  I don't care if I have to fight until my death bed.  Change is going to happen."

"This is a war.  This is a war against white supremacy."

15-year-old Isabella James Indellicati is the other co-founder of Gen Z: We Want to Live.  She says the time has come for systemic change to combat racism in America.

"We have to build a system to include everyone.  We have been going through 400 years of this oppression.  This country was not made for black lives.  We need to make it for black lives!"

Amanda Toussaint, founder of PROVX, or Progressive Reform Overrides Violence, also spoke during the protest.  She says Governor Gina Raimondo has failed to respond to the concerns of the black community.

"When you're a Governor and it takes a riot to happen for you to finally address the Black Lives Matter movement, it says a lot about you.  You're no leader.  You're a coward."

Toussaint says local officials have failed to enact the positive changes necessary to protect black Americans.  She says that's why the Black Lives Matter movement has taken center stage.  

"I definitely think, in this time right now, it's important for all of us to understand that Gina, the Mayor, they're not in charge right now.  We are in charge."

A group of local health care workers and medical students participated in a separate march to the State House, calling for equity in the health care system. 

Joe Tasca can be reached at jtasca@ripr.org