Almost 500 attend Black Lives Matter march
MATTAPOISETT — As protests around the world continue after the death of George Floyd, a black man from Minnesota who was killed by a police officer, 400 to 500 residents of the Tri-Town and beyond participated in a march on June 5 from the Park and Ride on North Street to Shipyard Park in solidarity.
“I’m here because I’m angry,” said Talon Gomes, a Marion resident who talked about his experiences of being black to the crowd. “I’m not here to sing praises, I’m not here for kumbaya, I’m not here for ‘love everybody.’ We’re all here because we’re fed up.”
He discussed a previous incident where he was arrested and pepper sprayed after trying to break up a fight and resisting arrest. When he told the officer who was driving him to the precinct that he couldn’t breathe because of the spray, the cop said that if he could beg, he could breathe.
“How many people do we need to see begging as their last words before we realize that’s BS?,” Gomes asked.
Jendell Teixeira, a 2020 graduate of Old Rochester Regional High School also spoke about her experiences being black in the Tri-Town and implored protestors to fight for justice.
“We are here standing in the moment where every single one of us needs to decide if we want equity and justice for everyone, or do we want the same systems of oppressions that we’ve had for 400 years,” Teixeira said
Abby Durr, a Mattapoisett resident and rising ORR freshman, read Kwame Alexander’s “The Undefeated,” and Sydney DaSilva, a rising senior at Tabor Academy sang an original composition about the recent events.
Protestors from varied backgrounds expressed their reasons for coming to the march.
Darlene Silva of Mattapoisett said she came because she wanted to “prove that we need equality for everyone.”
She couldn’t believe what was happening on the news, but her husband Joseph could, because he had similar encounters with the police “multiple, multiple, multiple times” as a black man.
He said he was recently followed home by a police cruiser, which was made clear because they live on a dead end.
“That’s the easiest of our troubles with the police,” Joseph said.
Natalie Martin of New Bedford came with friends because she knew that it would be peaceful. Even more, she came because the issue hits home as someone who is in an interracial relationship.
She said she has been pulled over by the police with her boyfriend and watched him get roughed around by cops, so “I’m definitely behind this movement.”
Frances Kearns of Mattapoisett said she was “feeling really good to see my fellow townspeople come out” to support her and her two children, Thomas and Jazmine.
Kearns is running as a write-in for the Mattapoisett seat on the Old Rochester Regional School District Committee because she said it would be good to have representation of all backgrounds on the school board.
The leadership council for the district was also in attendance to show their support for the moment.
Old Rochester Regional Assistant Superintendent Michael Nelson, who will take over as the district’s superintendent in July, stood off the sidewalk near the start of the march and greeted families and students as they passed.
He said the council decided to come “to support our students and families around this important cause.”
With a large turnout, co-organizer Stacie Charbonneau Hess said that, “I think it speaks to a need of this readiness like Talon was saying to maybe hear a different message, to realize that if you're silent, maybe you are part of the problem.”
Dr. Sarah Thomas, the event’s other organizer, said that she and Hess “wanted it to be family-friendly because it starts with the kids.”
In organizing the march, they contacted Mattapoisett police Chief Mary Lyons to tell her about it, and Lyons arranged for Route 6 to be blocked off to let protestors cross and had extra officers on the scene.
“It was very peaceful which was great,” said Chief Lyons.
She said that it’s unfortunate that the actions of the Minneapolis cops set back people’s view of police “centuries” and their actions were “way beyond how we do things now. We’re all trained to de-escalate.”
After the protest’s end, Teixeira said she hopes Tri-Town residents and beyond can “take away that it’s in their community. That it’s real and it’s not just things that they can just brush off”
And Gomes wants people to keep tackling the issue after everybody walks away. “The energy you have today, you can’t let die today or tomorrow or the next day or next year or ten years from now. You have to keep it going”