Anti-racist protest on tap Saturday in Easthampton

  • State Rep. Daniel Carey, from left, Easthampton Mayor Nicole LaChapelle and Easthampton Police Chief Robert Alberti kneel at the Easthampton Public Safety Complex, Thursday, June 4. GAZETTE FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 7/30/2020 2:55:25 PM

EASTHAMPTON — A protest scheduled for Saturday will demand that the city take anti-racist actions to “transform historically-biased institutions, policies and practices.”

“There is no wrong time to stand against racism and try to be anti-racist” said Isabella Gitana, a member of 01027: A Knee Is Not Enough.

The protest will begin at 11 a.m. at the rotary on Main Street, with a sign painting. At noon, speakers will address the crowd, followed by a march to the police station that will be headed by a car parade. At roughly 1:20 p.m. the group’s demands will be read in front of the police station. The protest will then return to the rotary at 2 p.m. for presentations from activists and artists, and will conclude at 3 p.m.

“An event was always planned from the formation of this group” said Jason Montgomery, another member of A Knee Is Not Enough.

A Knee Is Not Enough, which is lead by Black, Indigenous and people of color, was formed in the wake of a June protest against racism and the killing of George Floyd that was called by Mayor Nicole LaChapelle and Police Chief Robert Alberti. In the course of the protest, hundreds of people took a knee for 8½ minutes across the city.

“We demand that the city of Easthampton commits to more than symbolism on behalf of Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color in our city,” said the group in a release announcing Saturday’s protest.

Gitana said that, based on social media interest, she expects more than 300 people to attend. The group asks attendees to wear masks and practice social distancing. Massachusetts Jobs With Justice, and 413 Stay Woke, Stay Active are also participating in the protest.

The group has released a set of demands around police reform in Easthampton. Some, such as information on how to file a complaint against an Easthampton police officer, have been met by the city while others, such as the removal of the school resource officer from Easthampton Public Schools, have not.

Earlier this month, the city released a response to the group’s demands around police reform and education. Montgomery said, however, that the response seemed to be deferring to state action.

“It’s very possible that these state changes won’t happen,” he said.

He also said that the city putting forms for officer feedback online shows that it has some willingness to meet the group’s demands and is a “good first step,” although he also noted the importance of independent civilian oversight of the police.

The group has a meeting scheduled next week with Alberti and LaChapelle.

LaChapelle said that she would like members of A Knee Is Not Enough to join the work group she is setting up to review police use of force policies, part of the My Brother’s Keeper Alliance’s mayor’s pledge that she signed in June.

On what she’s hoping to get out of the meeting, Gitana said, “I am hoping that we can get more answers and more clarity.”

Bera Dunau can be reached at bdunau@gazettenet.com.


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