Report by Paula Antolini, June 14, 2020, 3:02PM EDT
If you missed last Sunday’s eye-opening event, hopefully you can attend another similar one when the COVID-19 quarantine lifts. Words said at this rally were a view into the hearts of people of color, who said they suffered greatly under the hands of racial prejudice for years. Details were made clear in their speeches containing their passionate words of their haunting experiences.
Some members of the Bethel community, and others from towns as far as 2-4 hours away, gathered in P. T. Barnum Square in Bethel, Connecticut, beginning at approximately 11:30 a.m. on June 7, 2020, for the Bethel “OCCUPY GREENWOOD, Black Lives Matter, March for Justice, March for Peace,” event.
The movement seeks justice for all the lives lost because of, “systemic institutional racism and police brutality,” said CT State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan, who participated in the march.
The protest also honored George Floyd, an African American man from Minnesota, who died while being restrained by police when an officer placed a knee on his neck and more officers held him down.
Many individuals were holding protest signs and most were also wearing masks as protection from the COVID-19 corona virus. However, the majority were not practicing social distancing, as per Governor Ned Lamont’s executive orders, while marching or sitting together on the CJH Municipal Center lawn, except for a few dozen individuals on the outer edges of the crowd, who were sitting farther apart.
Editor note: We mention the social distancing above because, in all fairness, perhaps the number of individuals who participated in this protest was not a fair gauge of people, of all races, who fight racism on a daily basis, or don’t fight it for that matter. This is because of the fear of the COVID-19 coronavirus, by many citizens, and the present quarantine not being totally over yet, might have kept many individuals away from a large gathering with people in close proximity. It appeared that young individuals were most of the participants in this event, and we all probably remember how it is to feel invincible at a young age, that nothing bad can happen to you. Then add to that fact that older people are at higher risk to catch the virus, we are told, and also anyone with a compromised immune system is more susceptible to contracting the illness. Had the quarantine or fear of getting a devastating virus not been in place perhaps the event might have been shared by more individuals. However, on the other hand, it is good that the younger generation is taking it upon themselves to make peaceful change and create world where color differences are only seen in a rainbow. Many people want peace and equality, let’s hope we get there.
First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker attended the event, even after he made statements for months, that it was “not safe” for citizens to gather in large numbers in close proximity and that he was following CT Governor Ned Lamont’s executive orders. Knickerbocker also denied the citizens’ vote on the town and school budgets, saying it was “not safe” to vote with people in close proximity, only a few weeks ago, yet he attended this event with hundreds of people sitting and walking close together, and he sat in the crowd.
Knickerbocker attending this event does not necessarily reflect his possible support of the cause of justice for racial inequality, or justice for all, when at the same time he is is denying all citizens their inalienable rights, in this case, to vote. Also, his urgency that citizens follow his words and the governor’s executive orders to “Stay Home and Stay Safe” is possibly the reason why many others might not have attended this event.
Knickerbocker’s actions are hypocritical to say the least, as he attended many of the protest events after telling citizens it was “not safe.” His actions are unfair to the people of Bethel, unfair to those who might support the Black Lives matter cause, who were put in a position to choose between “safety” and obeying “orders” over supporting a cause many might believe in.
Police had the event covered well and we learned from Bethel Police Captain Stephen Pugner, that they had spoken to event organizer, David Hayes, ahead of time about the event. One side of the road, near the P.T. Barnum Square, was blocked off and other barricades were eventually placed strategically, ready for the march through Bethel’s main business district on the east side.
Within about an hour of people beginning to arrive, a large group had formed in the square numbering about 300.
The event organizer, David Hayes, a Bethel resident and graduate of Bethel High School, gave a short speech in the square, directing attendees on the direction of the protest march, and later he was the first speaker at the Bethel CJH Municipal Center.
David Hayes and CT State Rep. Raghib Alli-Brennan lead the march down Greenwood Avenue towards Library Place.
Allie-Brennan, wearing a black t-shirt reading, “I can’t breathe,” representing George Floyd’s last words before he died, used a megaphone to loudly shout phrases to the protestors as they marched, some were, “Hands Up” which the crowd responded in unison with, “Don’t Shoot” and also, “No Justice” with response, “No Peace” and also, “No Racist” with response, “Police,” and also, “Say his name,” with response, “George Floyd.”
The group of about 300, and later about 400-500 on the municipal lawn, walked from P.T. Barnum Square, down Greenwood Avenue, turning right on Library Place, right again on School Street, all holding various protest signs (see photos below). They then walked onto the CJH Municipal Center lawn where speeches were made on the front steps.
When the protestors were all assembled on the municipal lawn, Hayes stepped up to the mic and began the event by requesting that everyone kneel, and he said, “To start out in solidarity I want us to all take a knee for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, in complete silence.“ Hayes and the crowd all kneeled for the entire 8:46 minutes, including some police officers present. This represented the amount of time a police officer’s knee was on George Floyd’s neck as he was subdued by police officers before he died.
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There were many passionate speeches given by numerous individuals, heart wrenching stories, for the most part, about racial bias that they experienced in much of their lives, that is still going on, they said, even in the town of Bethel and beyond. We have decided to include large parts of several of the speeches, to give you an idea of the minds of those who seek justice. All speeches were powerful and important to hear. It is their hope that eyes are opened and actions are taken to heal the world.
Event organizer David Hayes said in part:
“Before we get into the speakers I want to talk about, a little bit about why we marched today. We marched today because the devalorization of black lives across America can no longer be tolerated. Too many lives have been cut short based off no reason at all … Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, Tamir Rice, and many others. But mainly names we don’t know because they don’t surface up to the media.
“Far too many black voices are gone and this is no longer acceptable. It has never been, nor will continue to be acceptable. Our lives have value and we deserve to be able to live on peace just like everyone else. We just deserve to walk down the street without fear. We deserve to be able to drive a car without a panic attack every time we see a police officer. We deserve to be at peace in our community. We deserve to have our voices heard throughout our communities. We deserve to have our history and our culture shared and appreciated, wherever we are, throughout this country.
“And today we stand in solidarity with the protestors and the fighters all across this country in the past weeks and the coming weeks ahead of us. Do not ever let anyone tell you that fighting will never bring about change, for it will, and change will come. Change takes time. It may not be rapid, but it will come so long as people like us are dedicated to the fight and keep on fighting.
“So today when you listen to speakers please keep that in mind. Keep in mind that it is going to take many more of us, many more weeks of dedication to bring change, real change, not only to our community but across this country.”
CT State Rep. Raghib Allie-Brennan, covering Bethel, Danbury and Newtown in the CT State Legislature, spoke next and said in part:
“I am also a member of our State Legislature’s Black and Puerto Rican Caucus. I am the only openly gay Legislator in the State of Connecticut. And I am the only Legislator of color in the greater Danbury area … I stand with you.
“I’ll be brief because it’s not about me. I’m here to listen as your neighbor, your state representative, and to take back what you all have to say to the State Legislature. But as I said, today is not about me it is about the innocent black men and women who we have lost to systemic institutional racism and police brutality.
“Today is about George Floyd, whose life mattered,” Allie Brennan said, “8 minutes and 46 seconds, that’s how long he had a knee on his neck. In those last moments of his life George Floyd called for his mother and he said he could not breathe.”
At that point Allie-Brennan began shouting to the crowd, “Say his name!” and the crowd responded, “George Floyd!” He repeated this twice more, raising his hand to the crowd, along with a louder voice.
Today is about Breonna Taylor, who was an EMT on the front lines during the coronavirus pandemic, who was shot and killed i her own home by police. They had the wrong house. No one involved has been charged with the crime. She would have turned 27 on Friday. Her death was rules a clerical error. Her life mattered.“Say her name!” Allie-Brennan shouted.The crowd responded, “Breonna Taylor!” He repeated this twice more, along with a louder voice.
“Today is about Eric Garner, Sandra Bland, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, Walter Scott, Alton Sterling, and so many others,” Allie-Brennan said, “Their lives mattered.”
“Today is also the day we commit ourselves to never going back,” he said, “To never staying silent again.”
“We all have a platform and we all have a voice. If you see something wrong and you don’t speak up, you’re, plain an simple, part of the problem, ” Allie-Brennan stated.
“I am not African American but I am a person of color,” Allie-Brennan said. “I will be the first to admit that I have not always spoken up strongly enough to these issues. These conversations are tough and they’re getting tougher everyday, but what I realized during this movement is that keeping silent is a luxury that our society and country cannot afford.” Allie-Brennan once more shouted loudly to the crowd, “Because whose lives matter?’ and the responded, “Black Lives Matter!” He did this once more and the crowd responded.
Allie-Brennan then referred to a post he saw on Facebook that said, “More whites are killed by cops.” He stated, “Let me start by saying there is no excuse for the brutality being inflicted on our black brothers and sisters by some of those charged with protecting us. Now before someone tries to twist this, let me be clear, the majority of our law enforcement officers are decent, responsible people who serve and protect our communities with a compassion and distinction. I know many of them in the Bethel Police Department.” …
“We can no longer ignore the fact that in 2019, of the 1098 people killed in encounters with police, 24% were black people despite it only being 13% of the population,” Allie-Brennan said, “And black people are three times as likely to get killed than white people. This is what we mean when we say Black Lives Matter. Not that they mean more, but they certainly don’t mean less.”
“I am so encouraged by the young faces we see here today, we can’t lose this momentum. It’s time to speak up and it’s long past time to act.”
David Hayes then talked about some requests he said he and some of the organizers created for the community. “A few of the organizers and myself have taken it upon ourselves to create a few requests for the community,” he said, “This document lists our asks, our requests, protestors standing in solidarity, amongst members of the Black Lives Matter movement.”
“The murder of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor and others are not isolated incidences [incidents]. Police brutality is not an isolated concept. Rather it falls under the umbrella of underlying issues of racial justice and racism that are woven throughout other social institutions.”
“Organizers of this protest have listed issues within policies of public safety, the education system, and the housing system that must be addressed.
“These are our demands. these are our requests:
“1) Bring attention to this movement. Back lives matter which is inclusive of the LGBTQIA+ community and stand in solidarity with the Black Community in Bethel.
“2) The Superintendent of Bethel Public Schools along with the principals of each school to release a statement that demonstrates there shared standing against racism an update the curriculum of each school so that it accurately depicts racism in context and throughout American history.
He then shouted, “Black teachers teaching in Bethel!” as he raised his hand.
“3) Implement additional resources for students of color throughout the public school system.
“4) Reduce the size of the Bethel Police force.
“5) Mandate the wearing of body cameras by the police in addition to the car cams system already in place.
“6) Implement annual implicit bias training for teachers, administrators and police officers.
“7) Work towards disarming the police.
“8) Replace the school’s police officers with more social workers and counselors.
“9) Design policy that reallocates funds from the Bethel Police Department into community based public safety efforts.
“10) Assure the Town of Bethel sets aside upwards of 20% of new housing projects to be affordable in order to allow equal housing opportunity to all.
“11) To confirm their commitment to ensure that our home town will be one of diversity, inclusive, and freedom of expression.
“12) Create a new committee on diversity and inclusivity efforts within the town.
“These are our demands. These are our requests. It will go a long way in improving the conditions of the town, and therefore improving the conditions across this country,” Hayes said.
Pastor Wesley Johnson spoke and said, “Bethel I am honored to be among you today am the Pastor of a predominantly African American Church in the Bethel community, whether you know it or not, now you know.”
“With the advent of cell phones the world has witnessed the trauma that black communities and communities of color have always experienced. Something in the spirit of the nation and this world broke when we witnessed together the tragic and senseless murder of George Floyd.
Johnson spoke about Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and many others, and “especially George Floyd, a father, a friend a brother a son, 8 minutes and 46 seconds. You just experienced it.” Johnson said, “Can you imagine the pressure of another grown man on your neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. This was the second time in less than 5 years we saw a man die on camera saying, ‘I can’t breathe.’ And I think people of good will have said, ‘Enough Is Enough.’
“We can no longer afford for racism to stand on the platform of privilege.”
“Young people are showing those who have become complacent that change happens when you’re willing to sit at the table that you never sat at before.”
In Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words Johnson said, “A threat to justice anywhere is a threat t justice everywhere.” …”It is not the words of our enemy that we will remember but the silence of our friends.” …”The time is always right to do right. You cannot separate peace from freedom because no one can be at peace unless he or she has freedom.”
David Hayes pointed out “little booklets” that were on the front table, that would be handed out, “to provide important information on why we need to defund the police now,” Hayes said.
“More than ever police departments across the country reap the benefits of our tax dollars for schools, hospitals, roads, while others suffer. We can no longer stand by and watch our towns and communities across America die as law enforcement become more militarized and more likely to shoot people like me,” Hayes said.
Morgan Scails, former resident of Bethel for 19 years, until 3 years ago, gave a powerful speech, despite her voice being hoarse from talking at many rallies. She said in part:
“I felt particularly called to this for a slew of reasons. The country and the world are coming to the crux of society as we knew it. Key word, ’knew it.’ And it began to shatter with the pandemic and it further slides daily with new information and perspective to consider,” Scails said.
She said was a “happy resident” of Bethel, CT, for 19 years, going through the Bethel school system with “fantastic connections” and “great friendships,” graduating with a class of under 400, but she believes about 50% had problems with race.“I bet anyone who knows me or my family knows we loved this town, and y’all loved us, or so I thought,” Scails said of her experience here.
“Incidents of being called an Oreo, that might seem small, being called an Oreo,” Scails said, “Y’all see my skin right? Do I look white? Do I get claimed as white in this society? No, I don’t. So my peers, in good conscience, could call me an Oreo, thinking in some way that, that was a passive compliment. It was never. I didn’t know where to fit that weight on my psyche. Forever. I still remember those words and I still remember who said them.
“While it may seem cathartic and worthwhile to slam the subtle racism, and triggering questions I was faced with for the entirety of my life here, and the countless instances of blatant racism, both in town and out, I want to talk about what our future looks like. You would certainly be lying to yourself to assume that the problems with race that are being discussed on a world stage right now, not here, world, that they’re not a problem here. You’d be sadly mistaken. And by here I do mean right on Greenwood Avenue, I do mean in Bethel Public Schools, and I do mean in the surrounding law enforcement, I do mean that. I do. But where that gets confused for not existing at all, it just looks different. Racism is a deeply rooted uncomfortableness that we simply just need to unpack. There’s time for that. The hard work needs to be done.
“You do not get to obsess over black men in athletic sports if you cannot respect their human rights. You cannot, you cannot, you cannot prioritize merchandise and products. I’ll take all this sh** off right here. It don’t mean nothing over my life. You put a dollar sign next to my life, you’re the issue. You need to look in the mirror during this time and for once point the finger at yourself and say, ‘What can I change?’ Everything. Myself included.
“Racism is a complicit, systematic, and raging issue that stems from the very start of my people being brought here. I implore you all to not only use your voices but use your heads. Information is at our very fingertips every day. If you remember one part of this moment, this movement, this speech, remember that you could be a part of unifying a peoples. You could be a part of this. Bringing people together that simply had no reason to ever be apart.
Skin color is not a reason to not support, respect, or work with a person, but what I have learned from this racism is that that is more than enough reason. Racism is oppressive, and heavy, and it courses through the system on every single level. From childcare workers to schools, hospitals, lack of public equity, high end discrimination, places of business, the American justice system and even in our prisons. You know that even a black man, locked in a cell for the same d** crime is going to get treated worse. Y’all know that? Apparently y’all know that because you out here, but this is not enough. This is not enough. Kneeling with cops is not enough.
“You should not have to explain that there is more than a decent population and a group of peoples that has been doing this since their formation.
“One up Google, open up Google, we got so much more to learn, I’m telling you, I’m telling you, I’m telling you, that this is why black lives matter.
“We never said, we never said, that all lives did not matter. We never said that. Don’t put words in our mouth, We never said that. We never said that. What we asked, was that the world finally give some attention where it’s due.
“So yes, this morning I woke up tired, okay, and I will continue to wake up tired everyday, until I help those around me, and the communities that I grew up in, went to school in, had sleepovers in, ate on your street blocks, I drink in your bars, I do it all, and you gonna tell me that’s I’m not the same as you? I spent my money here, you gonna tell me that I’m not the same as you? Blew my mind. Blew my mind that I saw people oppose this.
“I’m just gonna say it for what it is, I’m gonna strip this point, it blew my mind. Grew up here, y’all all looked me in the face at one d** time, my graduating class was under 400 people. And what do I contest that 50% of them had an issue with this. You’re the problem. Look in the mirror, you’re the problem. And it’s okay to be the problem because we are normalizing learning new information and changing your stance. This is not politics, this is not problems other than human rights. You care about a person, you care about this, you’re on the right side of it.
Listen, listen, I want y’all to say their names. You continue to sign petitions, donations if you can, protest isn’t for everybody. Don’t let somebody make you feel bad because you’re too anxious to come out here, that’s straight, but you gotta do the work behind the scenes, have them uncomfortable conversations, yeah? Yup. it’s okay. You don’t got to get turned away from people saying you’re not speaking enough. I’m a black person, I’m gonna tell you, you speak it enough, of you have any uncomfortable conversations, it doesn’t need to be in the face of the public. You need to do this work behind the scenes.
“So listen. Listen and be there for the people of color in your life right now, specifically the blacks, I’m gonna separate it. Be there for them. And the biggest thing you can drought now is open up your heart, because it’s going to tap into something that I know we all have and that is humanity. You could find that. Everyone of y’all got that. And I want you to exude that, send that out. Send that out. So say it with me, no lives matter until black lives matter, no lives matter until black lives matter, no lives matter until black lives matter.
One former Bethel student, Malcolm Barnell Williams, spoke out about his experience with this teacher, Mr. Damon Coachmen, who taught in Bethel High School (BHS).
Malcolm Williams, a graduate of Bethel High School, now a junior at Howard University, also spoke about his experiences in being a black man in Bethel.
He first mentioned moving to Bethel as a young child in 2010. “At the time I was scared, I was coming into a new community, I was conforming to all, for lack of better words, all the white people around me,” Williams said, “And I didn’t know who I was ’cause I wanted to be like them. But as I grew up I realized, I’m nothing like y’all. At all. In sixth grade.”
He then mentioned an incident that occurred as he marched in a Bethel Memorial Day parade with the school band as a sixth grader, his first parade, he said, his “first outing,” as he played his saxophone. He said another student made a disparaging remark to him about his father. “This kid, who I thought was my friend, he came up to me and said something about my father. I don’t let nobody say [expletive] about my family,” Williams said, “So he decides to say something to me, out of all people. We were exchanging back and forth, saying pretty nasty things, then he says, ‘You know what? It’s better to be white in America.’ I looked at him, I said, ‘Well I’m proud to be [expletive] black’ and swung my sax at him.”
Williams said he then saw a police officer by the side of the road, who did not react to the incident. “I don’t know who that officer is, but you know, I’m thankful to him, ’cause he didn’t do [expletive]. He saw what happened, and you know, we need a lot more of that out here.”
Williams went on, speaking about how much a black music teacher, Mr. Damon Coachmen, influenced him while he attended BHS, and how much he meant to him.
“Now I’m going through the middle school, I’m having my fair share of problems as an African American male, and then I finally make it to high school, Williams said, “I should see almost everybody’s hand. Who knows his name? Damon E. Coachman.” Williams repeated that last sentence louder to the crowd.
“That was the first black teacher I had,” said Williams, “Sometimes I’m sad to say it but you know what, I am proud to say it, that man shaped me to who I am. He helped me to speak out. If it wasn’t for him, I would not be up here. I would not be in the band. I would not have my love for music. I wouldn’t be at Howard. Because of him. ”
“My parents saw him. They spoke with him about the issues that were going on around us, issues that, at the time, I didn’t know much about,” Williams said, “So he always pulled me aside, and it wasn’t, ‘Oh did you hear what was going on in the news’ but it was, ‘Malcolm, how you doing today. Malcolm your shoe’s untied. Malcolm, Malcolm, Malcolm,’ always making sure I was okay. He’s the only person that did that. The only teacher I’ve had that really truly cared for people.”
“And it wasn’t until my Junior and Senior year that Mr. Lawlor decided to step up to the plate, the vice principal, or whatever, you know” Williams said, “and he was one of the most amazing people in the Bethel public school system. I don’t even know if he is still there [cheers from crowd]. Good. Good. Because he’s one of the people that truly understands.”
“My senior year I was down. I was absolutely down. Somebody had done me dirty but I had the support of Mr. Lawlor, Mr. Coachman, and my wonderful friends, who sadly, I don’t se a lot of it here, but you know what? They’ve done their work with me and I’ve seen them do their work on social media, so I know they would be here today.”
“But it was because of that, that I realized, there needs to be a change,” Williams said.
Williams spoke about a time when his mother had to speak to the administration about a double standard in how the administration addressed him and other students.
Williams remembered a time when he was put on probation in the BHS Tri-M group (a music honors group) but he was still allowed to attend meetings only because of Mr. Coachman. Williams then talked about how music teacher Mr. Richard Baumer, reacted one day as he sat silent during a Tri-M meeting. “And I hope he sees this and I hope he hears this,” Williams said of Baumer. He came up to me, “Malcolm you can’t be here, you can’t be here, you got to get out, you gotta go, you gotta go, you gotta go!”
“Why, why are you coming up to me with all this nastiness!” Williams stated, “Why, there’s absolutely no reason you should be able to go up to Johnny and be, ‘Hey Johnny, because of what happened, I don’t think you should be here right now,’ but come up to me and be like, you gotta get out of here? So then when I snap back and get upset and I storm out the room you want to call the principal talking about, ‘Oh Malcolm’s lashing out, Malcolm’s getting angry.’ I am not, as Mr. Coachman said, another ABM, another Angry Black Man. I am not just an angry black man. I am an agitated angry black man. Understand to know.”
“And the school system needs to be better, and who knows what a HBCU means, I need to see hands. I should see more hands. I’ll educate you. HBCU. “Historically black college university,” Williams said, “Howard University. Spellman. Moorehouse. NCAT. Southern. Jackson State … I need all of y’all to know what it is, and if there’s any black, brown [expletive], if there’s any young person here going off to college… who’s going to a HBCU? Anyone here? [He counts the numbers in the crowd]. We got a few. That’s not enough. I want to see more.”
Williams said, “But I’m happy to say y’all can be the 3rd, 4th and 5th people out of Bethel going to a HBCU. I am the second. I’m not just the second to go to Howard University, I’m the second to go to a [expletive] HBCU of this town. And I’m going to spread my message. We need more of you at HBCU. [Expletive] the PWI (predominantly white institution), [expletive] a UConn, [expletive] a Sacred Heart. Now I’m not saying that y’all go there [expletive] y’all. No. What I’m saying is the young black and brown people, we need to go to HBCUs.”
Williams said most people at Howard don’t know where Bethel is and “make jokes.” Williams said they say, “Where’s Bethel Connecticut?… I don’t even know where that is.” The speech continued with Williams saying he’d like to be able see Bethel students at these HBCU universities. He urges them to consider attending.
Williams said, “I’m proud to say that I’m from Bethel Connecticut and I’m going to a HBCU. You know what? I do love my town.”
*We reached out to Dr. Christine Carver, Superintendent of Bethel Schools, and we are is still waiting on a response to a Freedom of Information request (FOIA) about the numbers of minorities hired in the Bethel Public Schools system. We are also waiting for a complete response to a FOIA request to First Selectman Matthew Knickerbocker about the numbers of minorities hired in the Town of Bethel government. (View our report here, SO FAR, no complete reports given to us yet.)
David Hayes spoke again and said in part:
“I’d like to talk to you now about myself, my own personal experiences, particularly those experiences I’ve had in the Bethel Public School system.
He then asked the crowd, ”How many educators do we have out here today? Raise your hands, how many educators? Let me see.” Then he asked, “How many students have been through the Bethel Public Schools system? How many Middle , Johnson, Berry, Rockwell, High School?”
“Alright, it’s on you to call out racism where you see it. It’s on you to call out your teachers when they are exhibiting racist behavior. here’s one personal anecdote. I’ll call put his name because this memory is ingrained into my brain.
“How many of y’all know Lieutenant Commander Mark Dwinells? Okay here it is. The esteemed educator of our community, right? Sophomore year. Young, scared black man, only black kid in a room full of white kids. This man, very political, nothing wrong with that, he starts giving lectures. He starts lecturing us about the people, specific kind of people, that take government assistance, that are on welfare, food stamps, TAMP, all the while he keeps looking at me. He kept glaring over at me, every couple of minutes. He did the same to you (Points to crowd).
“And guess what? My mom bought groceries the same week, on food stamps and government assistance. It took every bit of strength in my body not to run out of that classroom crying. I was sitting in the front row. None of my white friends in that class stood up for me. None of ‘em. Not a single one. It was just me, alone. Well that’s how I felt the entire time, going through the Bethel Public School system, alone.
“I’ve been called N*****, I’ve been called a porch monkey, I’ve been called so many disgusting and just spiteful things, going through the very school system that are up the road.
“It is up to every single person in this crowd, every student in that school system, every educator, to make sure these things never happen again. It’s unacceptable and intolerable, and I will no longer stand for that behavior to be accepted in our community,” Hayes said.
There were many more speakers, with many more heartfelt stories, some with tears, some very powerful, some that were angry, and some with advice. Speeches came from a grandmother, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, teachers, students, people who traveled 2- 4 hours to attend the event, and in many ethnicities. It is impossible to cover all of them here, but hopefully this will give you a glimpse of the Black Lives Matter cause.
Editor note: This article took longer to write than most articles do, as there was a lot to cover, we wanted to get every word absolutely correct, feature as many photos as possible, and choose representative speeches that presented this event correctly, so if we made any errors please let us know. Video will be added to this report so check back.
Disclaimer: The words in the speeches shown in this article are from the speakers named and are not by Bethel Advocate.
VIEW PHOTOS OF THE EVENT BELOW (Video to come.)