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Meet one of the student organizers behind the peaceful part of Raleigh’s protest, and hear his ‘righteous anger’

Young American Protest (YAP!), NC Town Hall, and five other organizations co-organized the #RaleighDemandsJustice event on Saturday, May 30, which called for “Raleigh to come together in solidarity with peaceful nonviolent protest to have our voices heard.”

“I was super proud of what we did and what we accomplished today, it is unfortunate that it has turned violent. I definitely do not condone looting. I do not condone setting things on fire.” — Greear Webb

Greear Webb, a rising sophomore and Morehead-Cain Scholar at UNC Chapel Hill and a co-founder of YAP!, got his start as a community organizer when he was a junior at Sanderson High School in Raleigh. After the Parkland school shooting in 2018, he and his peers organized a student-led, statewide town hall to prevent gun violence in schools, including state senators, school board members, police, students, and mental health professionals. 

“We wanted to have students lead the conversation when it comes to gun violence in school safety,” Webb said of NC Town Hall, which was launched from the event. “And after that, we got more involved with the City of Raleigh: politics, police brutality, and accountability on gun violence in general.”

If you ask Webb what started his early organizing career, he’ll tell you it’s what he calls “holy discontent.” 

“I just felt some righteous anger about the Parkland school shooting, and about all these adults who had been out of the education system for decades, trying to inform schools as to what’s best,” Webb said. “So I thought that that was wrong. That students needed to be part of the change there, and part of addressing action plans and starting addressing solutions that would better benefit us as students.” 

After high school, he and classmate Woody Wisz, came together with Zainab Baloch, 2019 mayoral candidate, and created YAP!, which has a mission to “provide local avenues for young people to bear witness to policy decisions and boldly pursue accountability through voting and outspoken, unapologetic action.”

During the official protest from 4-8 p.m., thousands filled the streets of downtown Raleigh, holding signs, standing in solidarity, and chanting peacefully. Families could be seen together: kids with hand-drawn signs and shirts. 

Seeing the power of working with other people his age on the issues that directly affect them fuels his work. 

“I think young people are fed up, young people are really frustrated. And we’re ready to provide some tangible action steps for local leaders across the state of North Carolina,” Webb said.

“When it comes to anti-racism policies, whether that be in the education realm, the policing realm, the housing realm, young people have ideas.”

“And young people are a unique set of people in this country that can go out and drive change.”

As a legislative intern with the State Board of Education last summer, Webb worked directly with policymakers and added a student perspective to educational issues. His advice for those working with young people?

“Treat us as students with influence, and as youth with power.”

Working with adults in his positions of student leadership gives him hope — something that he holds on to, especially now. 

“Not only being a young activist, but being a young African American activist and seeing the recent events have really been tragic, and it’s been hard to sleep. I’ve cried a lot of tears, but I try to make everything personal and bring it down to human level,” he said.

“Right now, we’ve got a problem with humans not seeing other humans as humans, and that treatment is definitely frustrating.” 

“Understanding that I can have a proactive conversation not only about what change looks like, but with adults giving way to students, you know, to really drive the change and to influence the action, has been pretty promising.”

Webb’s year on campus was cut short, like every other college student in the country. Yet, he’s already working on plans for what’s next, which includes sitting down and having meaningful conversations with Triangle area leaders and city councils across the state. 

At approximately 8 p.m., Webb, Baloch, and other organizers left downtown after four hours of peaceful protest. Later in the night, destruction of property and looting took place in downtown Raleigh.

“I was super proud of what we did and what we accomplished today, it is unfortunate that it has turned violent. I definitely do not condone looting. I do not condone setting things on fire,” Webb said.

“I just ask that America and North Carolina understand and give credence to the anger that those in the black community are dealing with and are facing.”

Mary Willson

Mary Willson is the director of engagement at EducationNC.