Couple Gets Engaged in Middle of N.C. Protest: 'Making History While Witnessing History'

Xavier Young tells PEOPLE how watching his girlfriend "protest and make her voice known" cemented that "this is the girl I want to be with"

Xavier Young didn’t plan to propose to his girlfriend while attending a protest in Raleigh, North Carolina last weekend — but when he saw her activism in action, he just couldn’t help himself.

“I’d been kind of just watching her protest and make her voice known and make herself known, being seen, and I was like, yeah, this is the girl I want to be with,” Young, 26, tells PEOPLE.

And so with a ring he’d nearly forgotten he had with him in his pocket, Young got down on one knee and asked girlfriend Marjorie Alston, 23, to marry him in a proposal that has since gone viral.

“I made it seem like I wanted to take in some water because I was hot and tired, and instead of pulling a bottle of water out of my bag, I pulled out the ring and then boom,” he says. “It was a proposal.”

couple engaged at protest
Xavier Young and Marjorie Alston. Courtesy Charles Crouch/4C Visuals Group
couple engaged at protest
Xavier Young and Marjorie Alston. Courtesy Charles Crouch/4C Visuals Group

The special moment was caught on camera by Charles Crouch, who runs the visual media company 4C Visuals Group and just happened to be watching. Young shared Crouch's photos to Instagram with the caption, "Making history while witnessing history."

The happy couple, who are expecting their first child together in November, have been dating for nearly two years after meeting at work at a local laser tag center.

Young jokes that Alston wasn’t exactly a fan of his upon their first interaction, as he poked fun at her speaking voice, but his “persistence” paid off, and he soon won her over.

couple engaged at protest
Xavier Young and Marjorie Alston. Courtesy Charles Crouch/4C Visuals Group

Last Saturday, Alston said she wanted to attend a protest in downtown Raleigh, and so Young called out from his job at a local grocery store to protest with her, making sure to grab the ring he’d had locked up in his car glove compartment “just in case the moment presented itself.”

“[A crowd] gathered pretty dang quick,” he says of his proposal. “I had to stop and start over again, ‘cause I know she couldn’t hear me. I looked around and was like, ‘Whoa, there’s a lot of people here. So I gave it a second, gathered myself, let her get her composure… The funny thing is, she couldn’t even hear me. She knew what I was asking, so she just shook her head yes.”

He adds: “She probably didn’t want the attention, but you know what? She deserved it.”

The protest in Raleigh was just one of hundreds across the United States that have emerged in the fight against police brutality and systemic racism following the May 25 death of George Floyd, who died while in police custody in Minneapolis after an officer knelt on his neck for several minutes as he cried out for help.

Though Young never expected to propose in the middle of such a pivotal moment in American history, he says he wouldn’t be surprised if a photo of their engagement ends up in future history textbooks as part of a chapter on 2020.

“The more and more that I see people are still finding out about it or freaking out about it, the more and more epic it is,” he says. “’Cause 2020, I think it’s unanimous, we’re in agreement: we’re like, ‘This is going down in history.’ And with this whole COVID, and the state of America now socially, they’re going to talk about it.”

As they await the birth of their child, whom they’ve dubbed “Baby Batman,” Young and Alston have already started wedding planning, and hope to tie the knot in September 2021.

“We’ll have a baby by then," he says, "so we’ll just take that baby and hit the dance floor."

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