Turners Falls turns out for racial justice march

  • A crowd marched in downtown Turners Falls on Sunday to demonstrate for racial justice. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • A crowd marched in downtown Turners Falls on Sunday to demonstrate for racial justice. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • A crowd marched in downtown Turners Falls on Sunday to demonstrate for racial justice. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • A crowd marched in downtown Turners Falls on Sunday to demonstrate for racial justice. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • A crowd marched in downtown Turners Falls on Sunday to demonstrate for racial justice. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • Brieanna Arsenault, center, leads a march for racial justice in downtown Turners Falls on Sunday. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

Staff Writer
Published: 6/14/2020 2:35:38 PM

TURNERS FALLS — A crowd carrying signs and chanting for racial justice flooded Avenue A Sunday afternoon, in one of the larger local demonstrations since last weekend.

This demonstration was organized by the same people as a similar march last weekend in Greenfield.

The goal of the demonstrations, said co-organizer Brieanna Arsenault, is to totally defund local police departments.

“Because right now we’re not getting justice,” Arsenault said to the crowd Sunday. “We’re here today searching for equality. We’re not searching for revenge.”

Demonstrations and protests have appeared throughout the country since late May, when video spread online of a black Minneapolis man named George Floyd apparently being killed by a police officer, who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while he suffocated.

The incident has widely been understood as an instance of racist violence, and symptomatic of deep-seated racism in American society. The police officer, Derek Chauvin, is now charged with murder.

Demonstrations in Franklin County began last weekend.

In Turners Falls on Sunday, a group met at Peskeomskut Park at noon, then marched down Avenue A to Town Hall. The number of people was too high to estimate, but was enough to crowd Peskeomskut Park and the full width of Avenue A.

At Town Hall, Arsenault spoke to the crowd, then opened the microphone for anyone to share their experiences of racist police practices.

“Just know that it’s here,” Arsenault said. “We’re here to be the bigger people.”

She cited as a victory the Montague Town Meeting decision on Saturday to level-fund the police budget. Town Meeting, with some discussion and disagreement, voted to amend the proposed town budget to remove a proposed increase in the Police Department’s budget, which Police Chief Chris Williams said would have paid for contractually required raises.

“It’s not for naught. Things are changing,” Arsenault said.

She also urged white “allies” — people who are not directly affected by racism — to take on a social duty against the racism they may encounter in their own lives.

“Coming here today, you said you were going to stand with us,” she said. “That is an obligation for the rest of your life.”

Reach Max Marcus at mmarcus@recorder.com or 413-930-4231.


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