Northampton joins nationwide protests demanding racial justice

Many residents of western Massachusetts participated, including students from UMass

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By Saliha Bayrak, Collegian Correspondent

A group of protesters gathered in Northampton on Monday to echo the call for racial justice that has been made across the country for the past four days. The call for justice follows the death of George Floyd, a black man who died after being pinned under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derrick Chauvin for nine minutes. Floyd’s loss was the catalyst for an eruption of anti-police brutality protests across the nation.

The Northampton protest was organized by a group of local teenagers, including 15-year-old Angelina Miller, after they realized there wasn’t a protest planned yet in their community. Before the protest, Miller stated that although she understood that “we are all angry in this time period,” she hoped that there would be a general atmosphere of “sadness” and “awareness” rather than “anger” and “hatred.” The organizers announced that it would be a peaceful protest with health precautions taken and shared the event over social media prior to the gathering.

The turnout was greater than the organizers had anticipated.

“That just shows the power of social media and the power of spreading the message” Miller said.

The walk started on Stanley Field, continued through downtown Northampton and stopped in front of the Northampton Police Department. Participants chanted, “no justice, no peace,” and evoked the memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other black lives lost to police brutality. The protestors were clad in black clothing and masks, a reminder that the fight for justice is happening during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The march was extremely powerful,” said Mary Jordan, an incoming sophomore at the University of Massachusetts who attended protest. “It was emotional hearing the pain and hurt in people’s voices.”

“I will never be oppressed based only off of the color of my skin, and I want to use my privilege to help end the oppression,” Jordan said. “The future of this country lies in the hands of the youth.”

The young organizers spoke in front of the police department. Maya Williams read off the names of some of the victims of police brutality. Miller spoke on her experience as a person of color in America to the crowd, saying, “I’ve been worried about police brutality since I was a kid, I feel like no kid should have that burden…for children to grow up in fear of the police because of the color of their skin is not okay.”

A singing of “We Shall Overcome” and a five-minute moment of silence followed.

The official protest ended around 3 p.m., and the organizers continually asked for the protest to remain peaceful even while leaving the crowd.

Many members of the crowd remained and continued chanting. The protest continued almost entirely peacefully, but minor disputes arose as some vandalized the police station while others begged them to stop.

The American flag was taken down from its pole and replaced with the Black Lives Matter flag and raised as the crowd cheered. Another disagreement arose when a man attempted to burn the American flag, but was stopped by other protestors.

The organizers of the protest made a statement on their Instagram (@nohomarches) that they do not agree with the people vandalizing the police station, and thanked people for the support.

Brianna Monsalve, another incoming sophomore at UMass, attended the protest as well. Monsalve “wanted to be a part of the movement and part of the change.” Upon seeing the crowd of young faces, she said,  “I feel like this generation’s youth is the most powerful it has ever been in years because we are sick of living the way the older generations were living and we’re demanding change.”

Northampton and the surrounding areas have a long history of activism. Miller said that “no one is too young to have an impact” which has recently been proven by the youth of the area and the country.

Saliha Bayrak is a Collegian correspondent and can be reached at [email protected]