One of Westport’s largest political protests since the Vietnam War drew a crowd of about 1,500 to downtown Westport this afternoon.
Organized by young people — and overwhelmingly young, but with families and at least one 80-year-old woman — the event was loud, enthusiastic, and peaceful.
A number of attendees were from Westport. Others came from surrounding towns and cities, including Norwalk, Bridgeport and Stamford. Many carried homemade signs.
Ten days after the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers, the crowd chanted “I can’t breathe,” “Black lives matter” and “No justice, no peace.”
Floyd’s death — and similar actions around the country — was the catalyst. But placards invoked other black people killed in the country, and an array of injustices.
Bobbi Brown — the youngest member of Bridgeport’s Board of Education — set the tone as the event began, on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. The symbolism was apt: That’s the site of some of the most memorable political protests in Westport. And this afternoon’s demonstration was, in part, a bridge between a wealthy white suburb, and its more socioeconomically and demographically diverse neighbors.
Brown spoke passionately about the need for involvement, education and activism. She was joined by several other young black leaders.
But she also handed the megaphone to a variety of speakers. A young autistic white man spoke of his marginalization. A young white woman in a wheelchair cried as she talked about supporting her black friend.
Westporter Mary-Lou Weisman said, “I’m in my 80s. My generation failed you. We have hope you can do what we didn’t do.”
Holding the hand of a 7-year-old white girl, Brown noted, “It’s up to us to make the world better and safer for her, and everyone.”
The crowd — growing bigger by the minute — then marched the short distance from the bridge to police headquarters.
Chief Foti Koskinas told the crowd, “You are making sense. You are making a difference. We are listening.”
More speakers took the megaphone by the station house. Everyone took a knee.
A half-white, half-Filipino college student said, “We were born into an enormous amount of privilege. We can walk around freely. But Westport cannot ignore injustice. We need to use our privilege to do better.”
The group then massed back on the bridge. The speakers, chants, pleas for justice and promises to act continued.
“Are you fired up?” one speaker asked the crowd.
“Yes!” they roared back. “Fired up!”