‘We are here for justice’: Protesters take to streets in Greenfield, West County

  • Brieanna Arsenault, of Greenfield, center with megaphone, leads a march to the Greenfield Police Station during the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • People kneel and raise their fists in honor of George Floyd outside the Greenfield Police Station during the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Brieanna Arsenault, of Greenfield, center with megaphone, leads a march to the Greenfield Police Station during the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • People hold signs outside the Greenfield Police Station after marching from the Greenfield Common during the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • People raise their fists in honor of George Floyd outside the Greenfield Police Station during the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield Police kept ahead of the protest, closing side streets to traffic to allow protesters to safely march up High Street to the Greenfield Police Station during the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Protesters kneel for nine minutes in honor of George Floyd outside the Greenfield Police Station during the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Tatyana Torres-Cruz and Brieanna Arsenault rally people in the center of Greenfield before heading to the Greenfield Police Station for the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Greenfield Police kept ahead of the protest, closing side streets to traffic to allow protesters to safely march up Federal Street to the Greenfield Police Station for the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Thousands of people gather outside the Greenfield Police Station after marching from the Greenfield Common for the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • People rally in the center of Greenfield before heading to the Greenfield Police Station for the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Brieanna Arsenault and Tatyana Torres-Cruz rally people in the center of Greenfield before heading to the Greenfield Police Station for the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Protesters gather in the center of Greenfield before heading to the Greenfield Police Station for the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Protesters march up Federal Street to the Greenfield Police Station for the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Protesters march up Federal Street to the Greenfield Police Station for the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Protesters gather at Main and Federal streets to rally before heading to the Greenfield Police Station for the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Noel Certain addresses the crowd at the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday in Greenfield. Staff Photo/MARY BYRNE

  • Brieanna Arsenault leads the “no justice, no peace” chant during the march at the “We Stand in Solidarity: Black Lives Matter” protest on Saturday in Greenfield. Staff Photo/MARY BYRNE

  • Joey Kotright organizes protesters at a Black Lives Matter solidarity rally at the Iron Bridge in Shelburne Falls on Saturday. Staff Photo/MARY BYRNE

  • Joey Kotright kneels in memory of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 at the hands of police. Staff Photo/MARY BYRNE

  • Protesters met at the Iron Bridge in Shelburne Falls on Saturday morning to protest police brutality in America. Staff Photo/MARY BYRNE

  • Protesters met at the Iron Bridge in Shelburne Falls on Saturday morning to protest police brutality in America. Staff Photo/MARY BYRNE

  • Protesters met at the Iron Bridge in Shelburne Falls on Saturday morning to protest police brutality in America. Staff Photo/MARY BYRNE

  • Protesters met at the Iron Bridge in Shelburne Falls on Saturday morning to protest police brutality in America. Staff Photo/MARY BYRNE

  • Protesters met at the Iron Bridge in Shelburne Falls on Saturday morning to protest police brutality in America. Staff Photo/MARY BYRNE

  • In a demonstration in Ashfield on Sunday, people marched in the street to comment on recent incidents of police violence. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • In a demonstration in Ashfield on Sunday, people marched in the street to comment on recent incidents of police violence. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • In a demonstration in Ashfield on Sunday, people marched in the street to comment on recent incidents of police violence. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

  • At center, holding the microphone, Melanie Fallon leads a march in Ashfield on Sunday in response to recent instances of police violence. STAFF PHOTO/MAX MARCUS

Published: 6/6/2020 5:47:28 PM

As many as 2,000 people marched from the Greenfield Common to the Police Station on Saturday, chanting “Black Lives Matter,” “no racist police” and “no justice, no peace.”

“We are here today, not for revenge, but for equality,” said Brieanna Arsenault, who organized the Greenfield event with Autumn Upham. “We are here for justice.”

The death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, at the hands of police on May 25 in Minnesota has sparked protests across the country.

On Saturday, protesters in Shelburne Falls and Greenfield took to the streets to stand in solidarity with victims of police brutality. On Sunday, a similar demonstration was held in Ashfield.

“The work does not stop here,” Arsenault said to the crowd in Greenfield, which first gathered at Federal and Main streets. “We have a lot more work to do. We have to get out in our communities. We have to spread awareness, information, (and) have tough conversations. Y’all need to get out and vote.”

Protesters marched a mile and a half to the Police Station on High Street, chanting and shouting to remember the names of Floyd and Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old black woman who was killed by police in Kentucky in March.

Once at the Police Station, the protesters paid tribute to Floyd. For nine minutes — the length of time police officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd’s neck — protesters laid on the ground or kneeled as Arsenault read aloud Floyd’s final words.

Although police officers assisted with road closures and directing traffic during the march, there were no officers outside the station when protesters arrived.

There, Arsenault read a list of demands. Those demands included defunding the Police Department; removing the school resource officer, pushing Greenfield High School to end its contract with the Greenfield Police Department, and reallocating the money to support youths of color in the community; charging police officers equally as harsh as civilians; and requiring annual de-escalation and social justice training.

“We can make these demands, but we have to follow through,” Arsenault said. “The fight does not stop here. We need to do more work, and together we can do that. Look around you. … We can have whatever we want if we do it together and we do it the right way.”

Arsenault and Upham invited people to share their own experiences with racism or police brutality. One woman shared the time she was pulled over without any given reason, and her husband — also a person of color — was forced out of the car, frisked and taken away in the backseat of a police cruiser. In another instance, she herself was the victim of police brutality.

“I am tired of being scared everywhere I go,” she said.

Noel Certain of Dix Hills, N.Y., also spoke to the crowd.

“Black people have been doing this for years, but it’s so good to see America is starting to wise up,” he said. “It’s time to get out and let people know who we are. Never forget, if you’re white: you’re just as free as the most oppressed.”

Certain told protesters his great-grandfather was a slave.

“I’m not that far removed from slavery,” he said. “That kind of stuff has been affecting every black person here. We have been intimidated by the society we live in. We’re never given the opportunity to go all the way.”

Certain said he believes one way to reform police officers is that when one commits a crime, he or she is punished more harshly than the average civilian.

“It will stop some of the violence we see,” he said. “We can’t go on this way.”

Certain said race issues extend beyond the police department and into everyday society.

“Changing police is important, but we need greater change than that,” he said.

In Shelburne Falls, a smaller, equally peaceful protest was held earlier that day at the Iron Bridge.

Carrying posters with Floyd’s face, or messages in solidarity with other victims of police violence, protesters marched across the Iron Bridge, meeting in the center of it. As they did in Greenfield, protesters kneeled for the length of time the police officer in Minneapolis kneeled on Floyd.

“In loving memory and honor of the murder of George Floyd, and the countless other men and women who, simply because of the color of their skin, have met the pavement and met the handcuffs,” said organizer Joey Kotright, “and met the extreme systemic racism that has found themselves in the hands of police way too many times, dead and buried. In their name, we’re here.”

Sunday

In Ashfield, a demonstration was held Sunday morning on Main Street.

A crowd that looked to be about 200 to 400 people marched down the street from the Post Office to the Town Common, then sat for eight minutes and 46 seconds of silence.

Many carried signs with slogans, most of them stating support for Black Lives Matter or denouncing complicity. Some slogans were more pointed, such as a few that asked for body cameras on local police officers. Some were explicitly anti-police, such as “Defund the police,” and “There are no bad apples, the tree is poison.”

The road was blocked for the march by police, and afterward an officer directed traffic while demonstrators returned to their vehicles.

The march was headed by Melanie Fallon, who led the crowd in chants, such as “White people defend black lives,” “The people united will never be defeated” and “Hey, hey, ho, ho, police brutality has got to go.”

At the Town Common, Fallon noted while speaking to the crowd that the group was largely white, but did not comment further on the subject. When asked if the demonstration was targeted to specific local instances of police brutality, Fallon said she did not know of any.

“We felt it was important for rural communities to stand up and show solidarity,” she said.


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