2020-06-10

Rally packs Bridgewater’s downtown

by Keith Corcoran

  • <p>FACEBOOK/MAYOR DAVID MITCHELL</p><p>Participants of a June 4 rally against anti-black racism take a knee in Bridgewater.</p>

Dozens packed the street and area around a downtown park in Bridgewater and silently knelt in a show of unity against anti-black racism during a June 4 rally organized by the town's mayor and his family.

The Take a Knee Against Racism rally took place on the same day as the first memorial for George Floyd, whose death at the hands of police in the U.S. sparked global demonstrations against inequality, racism and police brutality.

A white police officer is among law enforcement members charged in Minneapolis in connection with the black man's death. During an incident in May, the officer is seen putting his knee on Floyd's neck for nearly nine minutes as he's handcuffed and laying on a street and complaining that he couldn't breathe.

Those attending the rally quietly took a knee for nearly nine minutes after a prayer from Rev. Aaron Kenny.

The demonstration, which featured remarks from three speakers of colour, and the mayor, David Mitchell - a white man - lasted less than an hour and was live-streamed on his mayoral Facebook page.

"This gathering, this moment right here, is not the solution, It is, however, a beginning," he told the audience, after explaining that as a non-black he can't relate to what people of colour face or feel in society. He said black people have left Bridgewater because of racism they faced.

Mitchell called the rally a show of solidarity and a step toward responsibility and repair.

"The ultimate goal needs to be meaningful change," he explained to those gathered at Pijinuiskaq Park, at the corner of King Street and Old Bridge Street. "We cannot go back to empty words."

Lauryn Guest, one of the speakers at the rally, recalled the discomfort of being watched as the only person of colour in a room, being followed as if she were a thief, and on the receiving end of racial slurs.

"I started to think about my life and how something as seemingly simple as the colour of my skin affects the quality of my life everyday," she explained to the audience.

"Racial micro-aggressions, racial discrimination and police brutality are not special to a place, but rather a global issue," she told the audience.

She urged people to listen to black voices, educate oneself on systems that oppress, and support programs that advocate for people of colour.

"These conversations around race are essential to the betterment and safety of black people everywhere; we are tired, fed up and angry and rightfully so," Guest said, " and absolutely nothing will change by sweeping racism under the rug."

Mahone Bay resident, Francis Kangata, immigrated from Africa. He encouraged people to use their individual platforms to help foster an effort toward a more equal and just society.

"In my opinion, if we meaningfully address systemic and institutionalized racism, we'll impact those personalized and internalized racist tendencies that might be out there."

Jennifer Everest, the rally's first speaker, moved to Bridgewater a couple of years ago.

"Change takes time and, yeah, it's uncomfortable," she said.

"It means looking at ourselves and admitting that we're not perfect. That includes me and you."

You can watch the full rally at https://vimeo.com/426309211 on the internet

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