Teen girls bring hundreds out for Jacob Blake protest in Northampton

  • Judy Jones of Holyoke speaks to several hundred people taking part in a protest Saturday for Jacob Blake in front of the Northampton Police Department. Jones urged the overwhelmingly young crowd to remember the late civil rights icon John Lewis and “do good trouble.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Angela Rivero, right, 14, of Holyoke, one of the organizers of protest for Jacob Blake, leads a march from Sheldon Field to a rally Saturday in front of the Northampton Police Department . The event was also organized by Yosola Camille, 15, of Holyoke and Nina Drummond, 15, of Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Several hundred people listen to speakers in front of the Northampton Police Department during a protest Saturday for Jacob Blake . The event was organized by Angela Rivero, 14, and Yosola Camille, 15, both of Holyoke, and Nina Drummond, 15, of Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Several hundred people took part in a protest Saturday for Jacob Blake in Northampton, marching from Sheldon Field to a rally in front of the city’s police department. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Nina Drummond, 15, of Northampton, one of the organizers of Saturday’s protest for Jacob Blake, marches with several hundred people to a rally in front of the Northampton Police Department. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A crowd of more than 200 listen to speakers at a protest Saturday for Jacob Blake in front of the Northampton Police Department. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Yosola Camille, 15, of Holyoke, one of the organizers of Saturday’s protest for Jacob Blake, speaks to the crowd in front of the Northampton Police Dpartment after a march from Sheldon Field. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Marcel Brown, left, of Amherst and Lola Ojutiku of Sunderland speak Saturday with the Gazette at Sheldon Field in Northampton before the protest for Jacob Blake. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 9/5/2020 5:57:04 PM

NORTHAMTPON — More than 200 people marched from Sheldon Field to the Northampton Police Station on Saturday afternoon to protest police brutality in the name of Jacob Blake, a Black man shot and paralyzed by a white police officer in Kenosha, Wisconsin last month.

The event was organized by 15-year-old Yosola Camille of Holyoke, 14-year-old Angela Rivero of Holyoke and 15-year-old Nina Drummond of Northampton. Blake was shot multiple times in the back as he leaned into an SUV in front of his children on Aug. 23.

The girls run an Instagram page called “theblackroom2020” through which they said they organized Saturday’s protest. Camille said they have also started a business called The Black Room, which decorates different businesses, homes and schools around Black history and culture.

“We have already been outraged for a long time about this. We’ve been protesting and we didn’t notice any local protests about this matter,” Rivero said about Blake’s shooting. “So we decided to take it upon ourselves to have one.”

Protests erupted across the country over the past few months after the murder of George Floyd, the Black man from Minneapolis killed in May as a white police officer kneeled on his neck for nearly nine minutes. One June protest of his death, at the Northampton Police Station, brought out about 4,500 demonstrators.

Before Saturday’s protest made its way down Bridge Street and towards the center of the city, Zhané Bady-Puig, 20, of South Hadley, and Grace Lerch, 17, were leaning against a fence waiting for the event to begin. Bady-Puig said that she came to the protest because she wants to be more involved in the movement. 

“I just want to ... go out and show that our voices matter and that our lives matter,” Bady-Puig said. 

Lerch said she was at the big protest in Northampton and a few others in the area. She said she believes it is important to continue to “show up for the cause.”

“I think it’s really important that people continue being heard and showing the good side of the movement versus what everybody would prefer to portray in the media,” Lerch said. “It’s not really politics, I feel like, at this point. It’s just human rights.”

Lola Ojutiku, 23, of Sunderland and Marcel Brown, 25, of Amherst were also at the protest. Ojutiku said she came to the protest because “at some point, you just can’t take it anymore.”

“I’m here to … share my reasons for being angry about this,” Ojutiku said.

The group of protesters eventually made their way down Bridge Street and onto Center Street, where they stopped in front of the Northampton Police Station, which was fenced off and guarded by seven police officers. Over the buzzing of a drone flying overhead, Rivero grabbed a megaphone and faced the station for her speech.

“I am standing here today in honor of Jacob Blake, who’s had his ability to stand for himself violently stolen from him,” she said. “I am standing here today because three innocent little boys will never be the same after witnessing their father brutally shot seven times in his back.”

“We live in a country where injustices like this happen every single day. A country where me saying my own life matters is a political statement,” Rivero continued. “Our skin is not a weapon. Our skin is not a threat. Our skin is not justification for brutality and abuse. I am standing here today because all Black lives matter, and we will be heard.”

Michael Connors can be reached at mconnors@gazettenet.com. 


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