Hundreds Unite Against Racism

Jesup Green — Westport’s historic site for anti-war, gun violence and other protests — drew several hundred people of all ages to another, this afternoon.

Organized in less than 48 hours following the national reaction to the death of George Floyd, it was as passionate as any in the past. But — coming in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic — it also marked the first large gathering here since mid-March. Masks were mandatory. Speeches were short.

But the message was powerful.

Organizer Darcy Hicks noted “the tension between wanting to stay home and keep the community safe, and the bubbling need to do something.”

RTM member Andrew Colabella and civic activist Darcy Hicks.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas read yesterday’s statement from his department condemning Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis officers.

Then he went further.

Police Chief Foti Koskinas (far right) with, from left, TEAM Westport chair Harold Bailey and 1st Selectman Jim Marpe. The town’s other 2 selectman were there too.

He apologized personally to the Floyd family, for the way their loved one was treated by police.

“I am never embarrassed, and always proud, to wear this uniform,” Koskinas said. “But Mr. Floyd’s death was devastating to this department.”

He then introduced Harold Bailey, TEAM Westport chair. The head of the town’s multicultural committee said that for every George Floyd, there are “thousands of other victims, in the dark and out of sight.” Indifference, he said, is just another way of sanctioning such acts.

Bailey added that TEAM Westport is partnering with the police, Westport Library, Interfaith Clergy Association and schools, on community forums and projects.

Hicks spoke last. “As a white, privileged person, I am complicit in the death of George Floyd and others,” she said.

“I have not always been engaged in fighting racism and economic inequality.” It is not enough to be “not a racist,” she said. “People have to do things.”

 

The protest ended with a long moment of silence: 4 minutes, 23 seconds. But, Hicks noted, that was only half the amount of time George Floyd’s neck was pinned underneath a police officer’s knee.

The silence seemed to go on forever.

And it spoke volumes.

(Photo/David Vita)

(Photo/David Vita)

(All photos/Dan Woog unless otherwise noted)

34 responses to “Hundreds Unite Against Racism

  1. Joan McNaughton

    Nice to see this, from Canada!

    Sent from my iPad

    >

  2. Jack (MAGA) Backiel

    MAGA = 20% unemployment and riots in the streets! At least he got two rounds of golf in within the past week.

  3. Amy Kaplan

    Dan, thank you for covering this. And it was heartening to see and to be a part of. But as Darcy said, it is not enough. The picture of the young man with a sign quoting Dr King really got me. We have been silent way too long. It’s time for us to use our privilege and demand change. To march in solidarity with people of color in places where they won’t be so welcome, and with them in places where we will not be. To be willing to lose our individual privilege for the sake of us all.

  4. Dan Herman

    Hey! I have an idea………………Let’s set fire to Main Street and break into a few liquor stores.

    • Hey, I have an idea. Why not be part of the solution, and not the problem?

      • Dan Herman

        You are the problem! Enforce the laws. Arrest the cop and take him to trial.

        • Bruce J Kent

          Seems that is exactly what has been done Dan……….but that is not what these mobs want. That’s just their excuse for rioting, burning, looting.

          • Russell Gontar

            No, it hasn’t been done. Four officers participated in this murder, but only one has been arrested and charged. That’s one of the reasons for the rioting, burning and looting.

          • Michael Pettee

            Perhaps then you could enlighten us on exactly what it is you think “these mobs” want. Would you suppose that what they want is what they say they want?: To be treated fairly and equally by the police? To have a police force which protects and serves the black community as well? To be comfortable calling 911 in an emergency?

            Speaking as a resident of Saint Paul who grew up in Westport, I can tell you a few things about both the protests and the mayhem here. 1) There have been many dozens of protests here in the last week and by tens of thousands of people. Almost all are peaceful. There are also huge crowds out in the street each day with brooms and shovels helping to clean-up. 2) There are many “law and order types” here who are actually initiating the violence, mayhem and arson. This has been documented, and is, I suppose, in addition to left-wing instigators, the organized ANTIFA anarchists. Both sides are doing it. 3) The stores here in Minneapolis and Saint Paul you see burning on the news are not in the “black neighborhoods” here. Actually, the initial mayhem was at the Target and AutoZone adjacent to the third police precinct here, as that is the precinct where the four officers worked. It is not in a black neighborhood. 4) Many of the instigators of the arson and mayhem here are well organized. They move quickly and are apparently able to monitor encrypted police communications. 5) There is mayhem in Fargo, North Dakota, and Grand Rapids, Michigan. I am a proud liberal, but trust me, neither Fargo nor Grand Rapids are the places I go for updates on liberal thinking. Do your “mobs” in those cities want something different than the mobs in Minneapolis? 6) Does anyone really believe that there are well organized anarchists? Do they have monthly meetings? Does that not defy common sense?

    • bad idea jeans

    • Since it’s mostly been white agitators who have been breaking windows, you’d fit right in, Dan.

      • Jack Backiel

        Mara, That wasn’t a nice thing to say to Dan! Go back to the trailer park.

        • John McCarthy

          Jack, this is uncalled for.

          • Jack Backiel

            John, I was just sticking up for Dan due to her nasty comment directed at Dan.

        • Mr. Backiel, I confess I’m very confused by your need to name-call. Though I know many people of exceptional quality who live in trailer parks, you seem to want to insult me, and I’m not sure what I did to deserve being your target. It is accurate that most of the violence in these protests has been instigated by outside infiltrators, many of whom are white and hoping to cause greater tensions between the police and black protestors. And it is a sign of white male privilege to make light of the protests by suggesting that all they’re about is looting. I have a right to respond to that assumption, just as much as he had a right to make it. If you have some private personal concern, please feel free to reach out, but I’d very much appreciate it if you would stop trying to belittle or insult me.

  5. Karen Kramer

    It was a wonderful, peaceful gathering.
    It’s time for us all to stand up and speak up for equality. Black lives and ALL lives matter. Silence equates to allowing the injustice to continue. We are all as strong as our weakest link.

  6. Hanne Jeppesen

    I don’t see looting, stealing and rioting accomplish anything positive. That certainly was not the message of MLK or Ghandi, they accomplished quite a bit by peaceful means. Violence is never the answer.

    • Russell Gontar

      No, those actions do not accomplish anything positive, but I can certainly understand why they happen. More than 50 years after King, non white people are routinely executed on the streets of america and in their own homes by those entrusted to protect and serve and by those who believe it is their right to do so, with contempt and impunity. And with the explicit approval of the beast in his bunker. Consider it a knee in the neck of america.

    • You’re wrong on two counts. MLK was, if not in favor of violent reform, understanding that sometimes it was the necessary evil for change to occur. But you’re also missing that much of the violence is taking place because white agitators and police officers are trying to cause the exact stereotyping and scapegoating you’re enacting with your post. Please become better-informed and watch the endless videos of white men breaking store windows while peaceful protesters scream at them not to.

      • Jack (Former History Teacher) Backiel

        Mara wrote, “MLK was, if not in favor of violent reform, understanding that sometimes it was the necessary evil for change to occur.” Could you provide written proof confirming what you just stated?

        • Sure. From his “3 Major Evils” speech: “And there are times when you must take a stand that is neither safe nor politic nor popular, but you must do it because it is right.”

          Here is the speech where he describes riots as the language of the unheard: “Let me say as I’ve always said, and I will always continue to say, that riots are socially destructive and self-defeating. I’m still convinced that nonviolence is the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom and justice. I feel that violence will only create more social problems than they will solve. That in a real sense it is impracticable for the Negro to even think of mounting a violent revolution in the United States. So I will continue to condemn riots, and continue to say to my brothers and sisters that this is not the way. And continue to affirm that there is another way.

          But at the same time, it is as necessary for me to be as vigorous in condemning the conditions which cause persons to feel that they must engage in riotous activities as it is for me to condemn riots. I think America must see that riots do not develop out of thin air. Certain conditions continue to exist in our society which must be condemned as vigorously as we condemn riots. But in the final analysis, a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear that the plight of the Negro poor has worsened over the last few years. It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice, equality, and humanity. And so in a real sense our nation’s summers of riots are caused by our nation’s winters of delay. And as long as America postpones justice, we stand in the position of having these recurrences of violence and riots over and over again. Social justice and progress are the absolute guarantors of riot prevention.”

          Link to speech: https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/psych-unseen/202005/the-psychology-rioting-the-language-the-unheard

          Hope this helps.

          • Jack Backiel

            My Dear, Dogs were released to bite protestors and Rep. John Lewis got his scull cracked and people were beaten! There’s no one I know besides you, who says he advocated violence! And even if he, at one time, used that language, he didn’t practice it! You’re way off base here! You obviously don’t know your history.

  7. Once, again, our police chief stands out among men of courage, conviction and purpose as he vocally, publicly and in uniform, joins in condemning the actions of another man in blue.

  8. Thanks, Ms. Rao, for your nuanced and thoughtful piece, seemingly putting into practice what you preach by not taking off on Mr. Herman for his far less
    helpful comments.

  9. Sharon Miller

    I applaud people speaking out. I do however wish all people would realize that they do not need to, nor should they, take off their mask to speak. They are very closely, possibly, spreading germs onto a microphone for the next person.

  10. Danielle Teplica

    Thank you so much to the organizers, speakers and selectpersons for the gathering yesterday, for your well chosen words, for your leadership, for pointing us in the right direction for next steps we can and must take. Clearly, there are hundreds of us in town who felt we needed to connect to the people who are protesting for an end to widespread racial injustice. Yesterday was a powerful start to a lot of new progress we can (must) make in Westport.
    Today, I have been encouraged to see many business leaders providing their perspective. Tim Cook, Apple CEO:
    https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/31/apple-ceo-tim-cook-email-to-employees-about-george-floyd.html

  11. George Varghese

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men [and women] to do nothing.” Edmund Burke

    Quoted by George Varghese

  12. Proud to live in this town of thoughtful and decent people.

  13. Great to see all of these different groups coming together! That last picture is also an interesting use of the serenity prayer… something I will have to think about further!