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Hundreds Gather in North Adams to Protest Police Violence
By Tammy Daniels, iBerkshires Staff
05:45AM / Monday, June 01, 2020
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Dennis Powell, president of the local NAACP, speaks with a list of the names of African Americans who have died at the hands of law enforcement.


 

Ray Moore reads off the names. 
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Ray Moore says he's not just teaching his 14 children how to live, but also how to survive in a world where the color of their skin can make them a target. 
 
"My daughter is 17 years old, I've started teaching how to put her hands on the steering wheel if  she's pulled over," he said. "I teach my boys how to survive if a cop pulls you over. ... 
 
"Being black is difficult in this world right now."
 
That was made clear on Sunday afternoon as he read off a list of 100 African-Americans who have died because of police or vigilante violence, with George Floyd being the 100th. A video showing a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on Floyd's neck last week as Floyd gasped that he couldn't breath while bystanders pleaded with officers to help him sparked a firestorm of protests across the nation. The officer, Derek Chauvin, has since been arrested and charged with murder.
 
More than 300 community members gathered at City Hall on Sunday afternoon; the day before at least 1,000 had been Park Square in Pittsfield.
 
"We continue to repeat the same words. We continue to come together for the message still hasn't been received," said Dennis Powell, president of the Berkshire chapter of the NAACP. "When is enough enough. When are our mothers and fathers going to feel comfortable allowing their children to leave the home and know that they will not be abused or murdered because of the color of his skin. When are we going to say, enough is enough?"
 
Mayor Thomas Bernard spoke of the "apathy of benefiting from a system built on the sacrifice and victimization of black and brown people, and of not shouldering my share of the burden for changing that system. ...
 
"The price of comfort over justice is too high. The stakes are too real. And the responsibility to listen, learn, and act too urgent to ignore any longer. I’m here to do my part as we gather today, but as a white person and an elected official in this community I’m in this with you for the long haul."
 
The protest had been organized by local resident Katie Law, who had originally thought to just gather a few friends but found more people wanted to be involved. 
 
"I'm glad that I started it in the first place because I honestly didn't even realize that there was going to be this much of a presence in our little Northern Berkshire city," Law said as protesters held up signs and chanted "Black Lives Matter" and "I can't breath, it could have been me."
 
Law said she hopes the social justice and civil justice movements can enact lasting change in her generation.
 
"I just really want something permanent, a permanent shift in the way that we police, a permanent shift in the way that we support our communities," she said. "I definitely think that community involvement rather than people from outside the community saying that they are in charge."
 
Mayor Thomas Bernard said there has definitely been a shift in policing in North Adams. Community policing has been central to its efforts for some years and its partnered with mental health services, the schools and other organizations. Its removal from Civil Service has also allowed to change hiring practices to look for more diversity in makeup. 
 
"[Police Chief Jason Wood] reached out to the folks at the NAACP and asked for help," the mayor said. "I think that's a that's a shift and a change in culture and mindset. And the NAACP is there to hold us accountable to let us know when we're getting it wrong, to let us know when there's trouble in the community, when there are concerns, but also to support us to sustain us."
 
District Attorney Andrea Harrington told the crowd that she needed their voices in support of social justice initiatives she's been working on, such as diversion programs for adults and support services outside of jail. 
 
"In my office, we are working so that we get community support so people have access to economic opportunity so that young children have the mental health care that they need so that they can grow up and be successful and and so that they're supported in our community," she said. "We need to know that this is what our community wants, and that you support these efforts."
 
 State Sen. Adam Hinds said people can't simply say they're not racist — they must be deliberate in their thinking, and words and actions. 
 
"If you're like me, you grow up all the time, people are saying, 'Oh, don't be so politically correct. Don't be so sensitive,'" he said. "It just serves to keep the system going."
 
The speakers were often completing with cacaophony of horns from passing motorists who honked in support — though at least one driver showed his disdain with rude gesture. 
 
"I have hope they open their eyes and people understand we have the power to make the change," said Moore. "It's in the Constitution. That's our power. Our voices are our vote. You got to get out of vote. Nobody's understanding that, that that vote counts. That's your power."NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Ray Moore says he's not just teaching his 14 children how to live, but also how to survive in a world where the color of their skin can make them a target. 
 
"My daughter is 17 years old, I've started teaching how to put her hands on the steering wheel if  she's pulled over," he said. "I teach my boys how to survive if a cop pulls you over. ... 
 
"Being black is difficult in this world right now."
 
That was made clear on Sunday afternoon as he read off a list of 100 African-Americans who have died because of police or vigilante violence, with George Floyd being 100th. A video showing a Minneapolis police officer with his knee on Floyd's neck as Floyd gasped that he couldn't breath, then fell unconscious while bystanders pleaded with officers to help him sparked a firestorm of protests across the nation.
 
Nearly 300 community members gathered at City Hall on Sunday afternoon; the day before at least 1,000 had been Park Square in Pittsfield.
 
"We continue to repeat the same words. We continue to come together for the message still hasn't been received," said Dennis Powell, president of the Berkshire chapter of the NAACP. "When is enough enough. When are our mothers and fathers going to feel comfortable allowing their children to leave the home and know that they will not be abused or murdered because of the color of his skin. When are we going to say, enough is enough?"
 
Mayor Thomas Bernard spoke of the "apathy of benefiting from a system built on the sacrifice and victimization of black and brown people, and of not shouldering my share of the burden for changing that system. ...
 
"The price of comfort over justice is too high. The stakes are too real. And the responsibility to listen, learn, and act too urgent to ignore any longer. I’m here to do my part as we gather today, but as a white person and an elected official in this community I’m in this with you for the long haul."
 
The protest had been organized by local resident Katie Law, who had originally thought to just gather a few friends but found more people wanted to be involved. 
 
"I'm glad that I started it in the first place because I honestly didn't even realize that there was going to be this much of a presence in our little Northern Berkshire city," Law said as protesters held up signs and chanted "Black Lives Matter" and "I can't breath, it could have been me."
 
Law said she hopes the social justice and civil justice movements can enact lasting change in her generation.
 
"I just really want something permanent, a permanent shift in the way that we police, a permanent shift in the way that we support our communities," she said. "I definitely think that community involvement rather than people from outside the community saying that they are in charge."
 
Mayor Thomas Bernard said there has definitely been a shift in policing in North Adams. Community policing has been central to its efforts for some years and its partnered with mental health services, the schools and other organizations. Its removal from Civil Service has also allowed to change hiring practices to look for more diversity in makeup. 
 
"[Police Chief Jason Wood] reached out to the folks at the NAACP and asked for help," the mayor said. "I think that's a that's a shift and a change in culture and mindset. And the NAACP is there to hold us accountable to let us know when we're getting it wrong, to let us know when there's trouble in the community, when there are concerns, but also to support us to sustain us."
 

Making signs at the protest. 
District Attorney Andrea Harrington told the crowd that she needed their voices in support of social justice initiatives she's been working on, such as diversion programs for adults and support services outside of jail. 
 
"In my office, we are working so that we get community support so people have access to economic opportunity so that young children have the mental health care that they need so that they can grow up and be successful and and so that they're supported in our community," she said. "We need to know that this is what our community wants, and that you support these efforts."
 
 State Sen. Adam Hinds said people can't simply say they're not racist — they must be deliberate in their thinking, and words and actions. 
 
"If you're like me, you grow up all the time, people are saying, 'Oh, don't be so politically correct. Don't be so sensitive,'" he said. "It just serves to keep the system going."
 
The speakers were often completing with cacophony of horns from passing motorists who honked in support — though at least one driver showed his disdain with rude gesture. 
 
"I have hope they open their eyes and people understand we have the power to make the change," said Moore. "It's in the Constitution. That's our power. Our voices are our vote. You got to get out of vote. Nobody's understanding that, that that vote counts. That's your power."
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