Incidents of police brutality inspire Saturday vigils in Orange

  • Organizers say at least 50 people attended a weekly Black Lives Matter vigil Saturday at Orange Memorial Park. Contributed photo

  • Protests against police brutality and racial inequality are held every Saturday in Orange. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 6/24/2020 4:27:59 PM

ORANGE — After watching a video of George Floyd being killed at the hands of police in Minnesota, Mike Magee and Constance Pike knew they had to do something.

The two Orange residents, husband and wife, decided to hold weekly vigils for Floyd and all other victims of police brutality. They took to Memorial Park on Saturday four weeks ago to have their voices heard, and were joined by 16 others the following week and about 38 the next.

With the momentum growing, Magee and Pike don’t intend to stop now. The couple plans to hold these vigils from 10 to 11 a.m. every Saturday for the foreseeable future.

“This is really incredible. I’m not gung-ho on being aggressive, but things have got to change,” said Pike, a psychotherapist who has a history of training police officers. “We’re not against the police, but I think reform needs to happen. We all have crazies in our professions.”

Pike said the public’s response has been overwhelmingly positive, with many drivers honking and waving in support of people standing and holding handmade signs. She said one person even gave some money, so those at the vigil could buy refreshments.

Magee said he and his wife, both 71, have long been activists for justice, and their parents participated in the civil rights movement of the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.

“We kind of grew up with it,” he said. “You have to be the agent of change.”

Magee said he was a U.S. history teacher at Ralph C. Mahar Regional School for 20 years and he taught about the lynchings of Black people and the civil rights movement. He said police brutality against people of color is not a new issue, but Floyd’s death has cast some additional light on it.

Floyd, an unarmed Black man, died after Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against the back of his neck to pin him to the street for nearly nine minutes on May 25.

Magee said Memorial Park is the perfect location for the vigils because of its peace statue — “It Shall Not Be Again” — and the soldiers memorial.

One frequent guest at the Saturday vigils has been former state Rep. Denise Andrews.

“I think it’s very important we have it in all communities, frankly,” she said. “My life’s work is about diversity and inclusion. That’s what I do and I need to do it locally.”

Andrews said she expects to attend most of the vigils. She said many people believe racism and police brutality are not problems in Franklin County because of the politically progressive environment and because people of color make up just 2 percent of the population. However, she said, this area is not immune to the issues that plague so much of the rest of the nation.

“There is plenty of room for growth and introspection and systemic change across the board,” she said.

Reach Domenic Poli at: dpoli@recorder.com or 413-772-0261, ext. 262.




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