Tag Archives: George Floyd

Zoe Brown: An Eloquent 20s Voice, For 2020

At Staples Zoe Brown served as editor-in-chief of the school paper Inklings and co-president of the Teen Awareness Group, and played field hockey.

She graduated last month from the University of Southern California where she studied communication and cinematic arts, founded the Girls Who Read book club, and was a Hillel leader.

Zoe started her blog, Coast Confused, in 2015 just before graduating from Staples and switching coasts. 

She is moving back to Los Angeles this week, to search for a job in entertainment. Her goal is to become a literary manager and producer, or a showrunner and creator like Dan Fogelman.

Zoe Brown: proud graduate, in her home town.

The other day Zoe woke up with many confused feelings. She watched videos of her favorite writer, Marina Keegan, doing spoken word poetry, then put down her own thoughts. The resulting blog story is a wonderful piece of writing: powerful, insightful, honest, raw, personal yet universal. I’m honored to re-post it here. 

Lately, I’ve been driving with my windows down, blasting music, mostly songs about feeling lonely, sad or about wishing for love. You know, “Modern Loneliness” or “Sad Forever” by Lauv or “Dive” by Ed Sheeran. I secretly hope that someone will shout out to me, saying they like my music and that we should hang out. I do have friends, but I miss meeting new people and getting to know them, while getting to know myself more at the same time. I miss that moment when handshakes turns into hugs, and names turn into nicknames. I always remember the first time someone calls me “Zo.” Mostly, though, I miss touch and attention.

It’s hard right now, for so many reasons. It’s hard to grieve people killed for reasons that make less than no sense, to grieve normalcy and touch and the job I would have been starting soon, had things gone as planned (they rarely do). It’s hard to grieve in general but even harder without a warm hug or a supportive pat on the back from friends or family.

I thrive off of touch, off the electricity I feel when my hand grasps the hand of the cute boy from school on our first date at the movies, or when I cuddle with my best friend on her couch and she falls asleep so I have to sneak out so she doesn’t wake up. I’m going to see my Grandmom in Philly soon, and I can’t even hug her. I can’t hug my favorite lovely lady on Earth, who lost her husband, my Grandpop, not even a year ago. She probably hasn’t hugged anyone in 4 months. Then again, neither have I, besides when I “hug” my sister and she doesn’t hug me back (she doesn’t always like to be touched) or when I remind my dad “I am moving to LA for good” so he agrees to wrap his arms around his little girl quickly, one more time for now.

Zoe Brown

I started watching “When Harry Met Sally” the other day and in the very start, there’s a make out scene. It’s a closeup of two people making out in a park and it looked so gross to me that I didn’t keep watching the movie that night. Kissing seems gross to me. I have probably kissed a hundred boys at this point, and I don’t think I ever want to kiss one again. Maybe that’s dramatic, but I guess it’s just so clear to me right now, because I’ve had to be so careful about germs, that it is GROSS. Swiveling your tongue around in the inside of a random person’s dirty mouth, ew!

But at the same time, I can’t wait to kiss again. I can’t wait to see that look in his eyes and know that he’s about to place his soft lips on mine, or on my cheek and the creases of my neck. And it doesn’t seem so gross after all.

I don’t even know when that will happen, or with who. I know who I want it to happen with. I want to kiss Him again. I capitalized the H in Him when I wrote this without even thinking about it, as if he is God or something. He is most definitely not God, so maybe I should demote him to the lowercase “him,” to just an Angel instead, or maybe a demi-God, in my mind at least.

I imagine him next to me sometimes, like when I’m alone reading on a chair at the beach or driving to pick up food. I hope that doesn’t sound too sad or weird and I especially hope it doesn’t sound creepy. I just miss him, and I feel like I don’t even deserve to miss him. I don’t know him that well after all and I’m sure he doesn’t miss me. Why do I get to miss him? But then again, I also miss the smell of my best friend’s hair, the taste of buttery movie theater popcorn, and the sound of pen on paper and professors lecturing about whatever it is I used to learn in school.

So why can’t I miss him? Who am I to tell myself who I can and cannot miss? I mean, at least I’m not missing that other him (definitely lowercase), the one who stomped on my heart like he was killing a spider in the shower, with intention and no regrets.

I miss my favorite writer, Marina Keegan. I never even knew her, besides through her writing. She was 22 when she died, right after she graduated from Yale. In one of her spoken word poetry sets, she said “I want to have time to be in love with everything.” I do, too. I want to hug my best friend when I go to her house to congratulate her on getting her first job. I want to high-five my friend’s mom after we run a solid two miles together in the New England heat. I want to look next to me and actually see him, and give his hand a quick squeeze to let him know I’m glad that I’m not only imaging him next to me anymore.

Zoe Brown, browsing at The Last Bookstore iin Santa Monica.

I want to be in love with my country, my home, this beautiful Earth. I definitely am not right now. I am proud of so much of the effort from everyone, to better themselves and fight for justice with racism, police brutality, and everything else that’s so fucked up in America. I am not proud of my President. I am proud of the Supreme Court, for its ruling to protect LGBTQ+ people in the workplace. I am not proud of the police. I am proud of myself, for selling postcards to raise money to support black emotional and mental health. I am not proud of my friends who are not taking this pandemic seriously. I am proud of my friends and those who are taking it seriously and the doctors who are fighting to save people and create a vaccine. I am proud of the people who stand back up over and over again after being shoved down repeatedly, because as long as they keep standing, they keep winning.

I am glad to be alive, but I am also sad and uncomfortable. It feels like I was living on a rug on top of a bunch of spikes and someone ripped the rug right out from beneath me. Now I live standing on the spikes, so I have to be careful of my every step but no matter how I stand, it always kind of hurts.

I know that the rug will be replaced one day, and I am hopeful that it will be a better rug, too, one made with more care, respect and understanding than the last.

I hope that this world becomes better because of everything it’s going through. I know I’ve become better because of my struggles. Even though I am hurting now, I am hopeful that the world we live in will come out of this a stronger, brighter, and better one.

(To read more of Zoe Brown’s blog, click here.)

Zoe Brown, hiking in the Los Angeles hills.

 

Candlelight Vigil: A Call To Action

Forty Westporters gathered last night on the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge. Hours earlier, George Floyd had been buried.

(Photo/Pamela Einarsen)

They lit candles, then stood in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the length of time the Minneapolis man had been held on the ground, with a knee on his neck.

(Photo/Diane Johnson)

Organizer Dina Upton said:

As George’s breath left his body, I believe his breath swelled up in me and all of us and in people all over the world. We come together to recognize the laying to rest of George Floyd, but we cannot rest.

We must do something to help one another no matter how big or how small. Drive someone to vote, take them grocery shopping, anything that can make a difference in your life or the life of someone else.

Rest in Peace George.

(Photo/Pam Einarsen)

Jerri Graham: What Westporters Can Do, Once The Marches End

Jerri Graham is a 13-year resident of Westport. A talented photographer, she is currently working on a portrait series capturing the stories and lives of Westporters.

Today she reflects on the past week in Westport — and the world.

Last Sunday I attended a demonstration on Jesup Green to protest the horrific murder of George Floyd. A bipartisan effort by 2 local activists that was put together within 48 hours as the country watched in anger, the gathering was a way to say” enough is enough,” and that Westport stood in solidarity with the rest of the country against police brutality.

Jerri Graham, with her daughter.

I attended as a sad and frustrated black woman, mother, photographer, and a Westporter. Walking around with my camera I saw friends I’ve known for over a decade, out for the first time in months standing in heartfelt angst with neighbors of every age, race and religion.

Over 400 locals listened to the calm, sincere and honest voices of town leaders, including the chief of police standing with us in our tears over the death of a man none of us ever knew.

As we stood together as a town, I had an overwhelming sense of pride in my community I’ve rarely experienced in my life. I felt, through the bodies — though only a fraction of our population — an immense wave of understanding.

When we stood in silence for the half the amount of time George Floyd was pinned down, we all felt the horror. We all felt the shame. We all felt the anger.

Tears came between me and my camera as I took photos. After the silence ended, I walked around the green with my daughter seeing the eyes over masks we’d known since she was in kindergarten. We even had a chance to meet up with the other black families who also live in Westport who attended the demonstration. It was also a bittersweet meeting of some of Westports finest melanin, though I wish we’d met under different circumstances.

That evening, my daughter and I recapped through tears the last few days. We, like most Americans had grown accustomed to reports of black children, women, and men murdered for existing by law enforcement. However, this time we both felt it was different. For the first time, our community was also disgusted and outraged. Over the years we had wept alone over Tamir, Trayvon, Michael, Eric, and Breonna. But this time, our grief was shared.

One scene from last Sunday’s protest …

During this period of time, the need to be vocal and loud against the injustices we see is important. We want to fix things that are broken. The racism that results in murder isn’t a hat someone pops on their heads, but are a result of generations never viewing blacks as equal. While I don’t have the answer to the ills of racism that has engulfed our country from its formation, I do know that once the marches have ended, the work for equality isn’t over and starts at home.

First, take a look at your own life and the relationships in it. Do you have black friends? It doesn’t have to be a bestie or someone you hang out with every week, but it is 2020. Broaden your horizons and circle by stepping outside of your comfort zone of who you know.

We are here in Westport. We don’t just work at the stores, and for you. Parents are currently scrambling for books on how to teach their children about racism, yet often they don’t have a diverse social circle themselves. When parents don’t, oftentimes their children won’t.

Now, don’t run out and try to befriend the first black person you see (I’m in hiding and there’s a service fee). It doesn’t work that way. But at least make an effort to establish real relationships with people who don’t look like you. It starts with a cup of coffee, a conversation, and connection. Understanding comes when we know one another as humans, not just sound bites on the evening news.

… and another. (Photos/Jerri Graham)

Second, put your money where your mouth is. No, I’m not talking about donations or setting up a fund for disadvantaged students. While I admire this level of helping others, what I want to see once the homemade signs have been recycled is monetary activism.

Vow to spend a portion of your income with black enterprises and black brands. While marching alongside us and for us can break the barriers, economic opportunity is the only way for us to be fully equal. Be an economic investor by looking at holiday and birthday gifts you plan to buy this year, and vowing that 20% or more will be from black-owned companies. It won’t be easy because they won’t always be the ones readily available, but it is a choice to spread the wealth around. Contributing to the building of a brand or business owned by a black person by consciously using your purchasing power is trickle around form of activism that kicks ass!

Do not let the fight against police brutality be where your activism to support black lives ends. Vow to carry a placard not just for a march, but one you hold within yourself through daily relationships, dollars, and choices.

Peaceful Protesters Throng Westport

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.

(Photo/Jennifer Meerow Berkiner)

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.”

Mary-Lou Weisman

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!”

Police Chief Foti Koskinas promised to keep this in police headquarters.

State Senator Will Haskell was in the crowd, handing out masks.

(Photo/Sophie Mulhern)

(All photos/Dan Woog unless otherwise noted)

Michael Pettee: The Minnesotans I Know

Michael Pettee grew up in Westport. He now lives in the Twin Cities, where he’s observed the aftermath of George Floyd’s death close up.

Michael — a longtime “06880” reader — writes: 

This is 38th and Chicago in Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered. I ride my bike around the Twin Cities after work each day, and I’ve ridden here a couple of times in the last week. Hundreds and sometimes thousands of people gather here each day to mourn, gawk, pray, chant, protest, hold vigil, march, pay respects, and just look.

(Photo/Brian Pettee)

The only violence I know of here at 38th and Chicago is the violence the Minneapolis Police inflicted upon George Floyd May 25, and then again the next day, when they responded to a very peaceful protest on this spot with military tactics, military vehicles, riot shields, rubber bullets, firearms, flash-bang grenades, and chemical irritants.

Some here at 38th and Chicago say that response was started by the police to create mayhem and deflect from their murder of a handcuffed, unarmed man. Today it is a peaceful and healing place. It is in a mixed-race, multi-ethnic, neighborhood.

(Photo/Michael Pettee)

I grew up in Westport (7 years Burr Farms Elementary School, 1 year Long Lots Junior High, 1 year Bedford Junior High, 3 years Fairfield Prep). I only had one black teacher: Mr. Rudd, the Burr Farms librarian.

I have been in Minnesota for 37 years, and now live in Saint Paul. It is hard for me to imagine 4 cops kneeling on a white Staples kid’s carotid artery until he dies on Main Street, or a Staples kid in, say, Bridgeport? People at 38th and Chicago here can imagine this quite easily.

As I bike from neighborhood to neighborhood it is impossible to say I know what is going on, and I would distrust anyone who thinks they do. I go through a myriad of strong feelings: fear, confusion, anger, disappointment, wonder, hope, despair, and back to confusion. The MPD motto is to “protect and serve.” People at 38th and Chicago do not think the cops are doing either.

A genre of visuals by taggers and shopkeepers is springing up on the plywood facades of the boarded-up or damaged store fronts. The graffiti, pop art and murals includes hundreds of simple messages such as “BLM,” “I Can’t Breathe,” “F-12,” “Peace,” “minority-owned,” and of course “Justice for George.” 130 miles biking through the cities in the last eight days and I have not seen sign of, nor do I hear mention of Antifa. None.

Something else I do not see is piles of broken glass. A small army comes out here each day. Not the army we sent to deal with unrest in Afghanistan. Instead an army of everyday people with brooms, wheelbarrows and snow shovels (something we have more of per capita than anywhere in the US). These are Twin City citizens who come out to clean up the mess, and to help the shopkeepers and feed the protesters. These are the Minnesotans I know.

I do not see “all lives matter” signs here, a retort I now find offensive. Consider this analogy: You ask me the score of the Giants game and I reply, “but all scores matter.” Well, OK, but that does not address the score of the Giants game. And here anyway, the Giants are getting murdered.

There have been lots of protests, marches and demonstrations here in the last eight days. 99% of them are both organized and peaceful. Protests at the county attorney’s home and office, protests at the cops’ homes and precinct, at the state capitol, at commercial sites, corporate headquarters, the 2 downtowns, on freeway entrance ramps, BLM protests, anti-violence protests, and food drives.

Black people in the protests are often in the minority. Protest organizers do not allow weapons. Rowdy behavior is not tolerated. Clear instructions are given to attendees. And people follow these instructions. These are the Minnesotans I know.

My 22-year old son’s neighbor in Saint Paul received this message:

Meanwhile, over in Minneapolis, some school kids made this one, typical of messages springing up on many street corners here:

(Photo/Wendy Porter)

There has been mayhem some nights, and I can imagine that both extremes are causing it. But based on what I have seen riding around the 2 cities, it is remarkably ill-informed and not accurate to suggest that the disparate treatment of different racial groups is not systemic, or that the mayhem is caused by blacks bringing destruction to their own neighborhood. That simply does not align with the neighborhoods I have ridden through, the people I have spoken with, or the Minnesotans I know.

COVID Roundup: Main Street Planters; Protest Info; Library Dropoff And Delivery; More


As Westport reopens, the Downtown Merchants Association swings into action.

They’re getting a great response from volunteers eager to help plant and care for 16 barrel planters the WDMA is putting on Main Street. That’s the first of many enhancements, making the area welcoming and inviting.

The WDMA also produced and donated 1,000 bags for the library to use for their curbside book pickups. The bags feature a link to the new Westport Marketplace, where people can find out where to shop and how.

Main Street planters


Yesterday, both the Town of Westport and Westport Police Department Facebook pages featured an announcement about “Truth & Reconciliation: A Conversation About Race and Policing.”

Set for tomorrow (Friday, June 5, 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.), it’s co-sponsored by a number of organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League of Connecticut, Connecticut Police Chiefs Association, state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection, and the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities.

Click here to view.


In the wake of the death of George Floyd, a group of mostly young Westporters has organized another event.

A “Peaceful Against Police Brutality” is set for tomorrow (Friday, June 5, 1:30 p.m.) at the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen (Post Road) bridge in downtown Westport.

Organizers says masks and social distancing are required.


Westport Unitarian Church director of social justice David Vita was at Sunday’s “Unite Against Racism” rally on Jesup Green.

He compiled this powerful 15-minute video about the event, held in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death by a Minneapolis police officer.


Usually, the award of a big scholarship is a big deal. COVID-19 has forced even those ceremonies onto Zoom. But Karen Jacobs made Tuesday’s event a great one anyway.

Her husband died of cancer 10 years ago, at 45 years old. Since then the Chad A. Jacobs Memorial Foundation has provided over $300,000 in academic and athletic scholarships throughout the area.

This year they created a new award, called Seize the Day. Recipients Charlie and Will Capalbo received $10,000 each.

Charlie — a graduate of Fairfield Ludlowe High School — battled 2 separate cancers. His brother Will — like Charlie, a hockey player — donated bone marrow for a transplant. They are the grandsons of Westport writer Ina Chadwick.

Friends, colleagues, teammates and relatives of Chad Jacobs were on the Zoom call. So was the Capalbo family. Karen asked them to step outside, onto their front lawn.

There, she and her children — Staples graduates Taylor and Mac — presented Charlie and Will with a traditional over-sized check. This fall, Charlie will be a sophomore at Fairfield University; Will is a sophomore at Albertus Magnus.

The coronavirus can’t keep a great ceremony down!

The Capalbo family (rear), and the Jacobs family (in front, with over-sized checks).


Beginning June 15th, the Westport Library will offer curbside pickup service for materials placed on hold, and homebound delivery for eligible Westport residents.

To prepare, books and other borrowed materials can be returned to the Annex in the upper parking lot, beginning Monday (June 8).  The Library is waiving overdue fines and fees.


Westport’s National Charity League chapter is donating $7,300 to 4 organizations that support the food insecure: the Westport Department of Human Services, Homes With Hope food pantry, Mercy Learning Center and Person to Person.

Part of the funds came from members who opted to not take refunds when the chapter’s annual tea was canceled, due to the coronavirus. Click here for more information on the NCL’s Westport chapter.


MoCA Westport says: “We believe in the power of expression, in the voices for change and in caring for ourselves and for others. We believe that art has the power to reveal, inspire, and affect powerful change.

“We care deeply about the ongoing problem of unequal justice in our country, and stand in solidarity with the peaceful protest movements sweeping our nation and the world.

“In a display of solidarity and reflection, MoCA Westport will cease all virtual classes, concerts and posts this week.”


One more sign the local dining scene is returning (somewhat) to normal: The (socially distanced) scene last night at Bartaco:

(Photo/Sabra Gallo)


And finally … from Fairfield’s own John Mayer:

After The Protests: Here’s How To Help

Sunday’s “United Against Racism” protest on Jesup Green was powerful and important.

But many of the several hundred attendees left feeling helpless. What can we actually do, besides march and speak? they wondered.

Darcy Hicks heard them. the co-organizer of the event — and a longtime social justice advocate — says, “I’m a big believer in protests and rallies. But not if they just stop there.”

On Monday, she went to work. She compiled a list of ways to help.

Downtown Bridgeport — there’s a lot going on.(Photo/Gary Pivot)

She focused on Bridgeport because she and her husband — attorney Josh Koskoff — both work there.

“We love the people,” Darcy says. “It’s a vibrant city with amazing history – yet 40% of children live below poverty level.

“Having a foot in both Westport and Bridgeport makes me realize that if all of us had that experience, we would think about their needs more. It’s hard to remember people in need of you don’t know them, or even see them.”

So, Darcy says, in addition to rallies and protests — or instead of, if you are concerned about COVID-19 — here is what you can do:


1. Drive to Bridgeport. It’s not far. It’s part of our extended neighborhood — and it’s important to interact in any way we can.

If you’ve been braving Starbucks, go to Bean N Batter instead one day. Treat yourself to waffles — available for curbside pickup. BONUS: It’s owned by Staples grad Will Hamer.

Instead of going to Dunkin’, surprise your family with a box of the real thing from Daybreak Doughnuts. Tired of the usual takeout? Wait until you feast on Brazilian churrascaria from Pantanal

2. Online shoppers: Here’s a better way to support your habit! https://www.fastcompany.com/…/7-black-owned-businesses-to-s…

3. Give. I know, some people say it’s inappropriate to ask for money these days. But for those of us fortunate enough to fill our carts with 700 rolls of toilet paper, we can spare something. The ACLU is always a good place to donate. So are https://bailproject.org and www.campaignzero.org.

Here’s a list of state and local organizations I’ve compiled, with the help of BPT Generation Now! (an amazing group of people, who are making great changes in Bridgeport):

Black Lives Matter
CTCore
Citywide Youth Coalition
Hearing Youth Voices
Students 4 Educational Justice
Connecticut Students 4 a Dream
Make the Road CT
Adam J. Lewis Academy
Neighborhood Studios

Some very happy Adam J. Lewis preschoolers.

4. Join these Facebook groups:
https://www.facebook.com/…/Justice-for-Jayson-155481706457…/
https://www.facebook.com/noahcalebfreedom/
https://www.facebook.com/nhvcrb/

5. When the quarantine is lifted and you find yourself filling your day back up with exercise classes, pick a day to volunteer for the Bridgeport Public Schools. They need visiting readers! https://www.bridgeportedu.net/SVAB.

Or volunteer to teach English to women at Mercy Learning Center. Or help kids with their homework at The Caroline House.

There’s so much more that can be done. If you know of more ways to close the socioeconomic gap that exacerbates racism and inequality in this area, please click “Comments” below.

Unsung Hero #148

On Sunday, Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas delivered a brief but passionate speech.

Addressing a few hundred people on Jesup Green — a local response to the murder, a few days earlier, of George Floyd  — Koskinas read a statement condemning the Minneapolis police officers.

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

It was a defining moment, and drew sustained applause. But many in the crowd were not surprised. They were Westporters. They know their chief is honest, straightforward, a man of integrity and conscience.

The crowd the next day was less familiar with Koskinas.

Unlike Sunday’s protest, Monday’s took the Westport Police by surprise. But — led by Koskinas — they were ready. They acted professionally, providing an escort across the Post Road bridge, and watching quietly as several dozen massed in front of the police station.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas helps the group cross Jesup Road.

Then — surrounded by the crowd — Koskinas spoke.

He talked of his personal disappointment in his law enforcement colleagues in Minnesota. “I marched with you,” the chief said. “This was not a publicity stunt.”

Some people jeered.

“I’m a first-generation immigrant. I came here not knowing a word of English,” Koskinas — who came to Long Lots School in 7th grade from Greece — said. “I was a minority.”

Chief Foti Koskinas with protesters, on Monday. (Photo/Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

The chief said he was devastated “by what happened in Minneapolis — by that officer, and 3 others who did not act.”

Koskinas — who at one time wanted to be a lawyer, but turned to law enforcement after taking a criminology course in college — added that he is even more devastated when the public is afraid of the police.

Someone interrupted him again. He continued, talking about systemic issues in American society. Koskinas cited our health system too. “Black people don’t get the same type of care” as white people,” he said.

This time, no one jeered or interrupted. Instead, the entire crowd cheered.

There are many ways to lead. Chief Foti Koskinas’ does so with both words and deeds.

In a week when some police departments are under scrutiny, our chief is our Unsung Hero.

(Hat tip for video and inspiration: Lynn Untermeyer Miller)

Westport Police Chief Fotios Koskinas (Photo/Dan Woog)

 

2nd Group Protests Racism, George Floyd’s Death

Yesterday’s Jesup Green protest against the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd — and systemic racism in America — was planned in just 48 hours. It was well publicized.

This morning, another protest took Westport by surprise.

A group of 100 or so mostly young people — many wearing black, all wearing masks, and reportedly from several area towns — gathered at Jesup Green.

Westport Police closed traffic, and helped them cross the Ruth Steinkraus Cohen Bridge safely.

Westport Police Chief Foti Koskinas helps the group cross Jesup Road.

The protesters headed west on the Post Road toward Norwalk, then returned. With a police escort — chanting “Get off my neck! Black lives matter!” — they returned to Jesup Green.

Right now (1:30 p.m.), they are massed in front of the Westport police station. Norwalk police were on hand to assist.

(Hat tip: Chip Stephens)

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)