The death of an unarmed black man named George Floyd on Monday, May 25, at the hands of the Minneapolis Police Department has angered thousands, and sparked nationwide protests about police brutality and racism.
Cheshire residents came out in full force last week to show their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, and to take a stand against what many protesters see as systemic racism of many police departments.
“We can sit back any longer,” said protester Emily Bradley. “As a white person in a white town like Cheshire, we need to show our support for the things that are just not right.”
Bradley and her younger brother Shawn began protesting in front of Cheshire’s Town Hall early on June 1, and held signs that said “Justice for George Floyd” and “Justice for Breonna Taylor,” a black woman who was accidentally shot by police while she was sleeping in her home.
“The video of what happened to him [Floyd] is heartbreaking. What is happening to black people is absolutely unacceptable in this day and age, and people need to get uncomfortable and deal with it,” Bradley added.
While Bradley and her brother’s protests didn’t necessarily garner a large amount of support initially, the act of showing up to protest is what mattered most.
“Cheshire is predominantly white, so sometimes we think we are immune to the struggles of other people, but we’re not,” added Shawn.
On Thursday night, Cheshire’s First Congregational Church held a candlelight vigil in honor of Floyd’s death.
“We wanted to immediately put out there that our church was supportive of the cause and wanted to have a place where people could silently reflect on what happened,” said the First Congregational Church’s senior minister, James Campbell.
“We had a lot of people out on the green, and we really wanted to allow for the silence to speak for itself.”
While the Town had a few small protests throughout the week, the biggest event came on Sunday, June 7, where Cheshire High School seniors and other students organized a much larger protest that met at Bartlem Park
Campbell also served as an advisor for the student-led protest on Sunday, with the march going from Bartlem to Cheshire’s Town Hall. The protest shut down Route 10, Cheshire’s main thoroughfare, for a while. Protesters held signs with phrases written on them that ranged from “Black Lives Matter” to “No Justice, No Peace” and chanted a variety of sayings.
At Town Hall, a few speakers stood to address the crowd about racism and the need for change in America.
“So many people came out in support,” Campbell recalled. “It was truly extraordinary to see Cheshire come together like this.”