‘The people have the last word’: Valley voters demand complete count

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  • One of the organizers of a Northampton Abolition Now rally, who would only give the name of Ruby, leads a group from Sheldon Field to City Hall in Northampton Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • People attending a rally organized by Northampton Abolition Now walk from Sheldon Field to City Hall in Northampton Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • People at a rally organized by Northampton Abolition Now listen to speakers at Northampton City Hall on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Justin Helepololei holds a flag during a Northampton Abolition Now rally in Northampton Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Edy Polins Savage of Generation Ratify Amherst speaks at a “Count Every Vote” demonstration on Main Street in Northampton on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Noah Friedman-Kassis of the Northampton Youth Commission speaks at a “Count Every Vote” demonstration on Main Street in Northampton on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Javier Luengo-Garrido of the Massachusetts ACLU Immigration Protection Project speaks at a “Count Every Vote” demonstration on Main Street in Northampton on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Edy Polins Savage of Generation Ratify Amherst speaks at a “Count Every Vote” demonstration on Main Street in Northampton on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Marisol Pierce Bonifaz of Amherst speaks at a “Count Every Vote” demonstration on Main Street in Northampton on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jaime Weiss of Brooklyn, New York, takes part in a “Count Every Vote” demonstration on Main Street in Northampton on Wednesday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Shoshona King of Amherst takes part in a “Count Every Vote” protest on Main Street in Northampton on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • State Sen. Jo Comerford speaks at a “Count Every Vote” demonstration on Main Street in Northampton on Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020. She told the crowd of about 150, “Every vote counts. Every vote matters.” STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Published: 11/4/2020 9:56:55 PM

NORTHAMPTON — As President Donald Trump, trailing former Vice President Joe Biden in the ongoing presidential election, attempted to halt vote counting in key states Wednesday, around 200 people gathered in front of City Hall with a clear message: Count every vote.

“We are here to demand that every vote is counted fairly, no matter how long it takes,” event organizer Debby Pastrich-Klemer, co-founder of Indivisible Northampton, told the crowd on Wednesday evening. 

As of 8:30 p.m., neither candidate had secured the 270 electoral votes needed to win the election, with several states still counting ballots. But Biden led with 264 votes, compared to Trump’s 214, and was leading in Nevada, where a win would gain him the six electoral votes needed to hit 270.

As results continued to come in, Trump falsely declared victory Wednesday. Meanwhile, his campaign filed lawsuits in the battleground states of Pennsylvania, Michigan and Georgia, setting the stage for contesting the election outcome.

Speaking at the rally, state Sen. Jo Comerford vowed that “we will stay on the streets for as long as it takes to get the results and protect the results,” drawing cheers from the crowd.

“Trump can say whatever he wants, but the people have the last word,” Comerford said. 

Over a dozen speakers addressed the crowd, which also included state Rep. Lindsay Sabadosa, state Rep. Mindy Domb, students and leaders of local social justice movements. 

Speaking to the Gazette, Easthampton resident Ann Darling said she felt the need to come to the protest in response to “a lot of threats to the voting process,” particularly in other parts of the country.

“I just feel that people need to be out and say, ‘Count every vote, and be patient,” Darling said, noting that the stakes are high. 

“I do feel that our democracy is at stake right now,” she said, “so that’s why I’m here.”

Several speakers, including Tanisha Arena, executive director of the Springfield-based Arise for Social Justice, said Trump’s presidency exposed dangerous ideologies that were already present in the United States that particularly harm people of color.

A Biden victory would be “a step forward to healing the deep wounds in this country,” Arena said, noting that there’s still much work to be done.

“Now is the time when we decide a country divided in white supremacy and hate isn’t what what we want America to be, regardless of what candidate wins,” Arena said. “We have learned important information about those around us. We can and we will work hard to let those who have been openly racist know that they are not welcome here.” 

Speaking of a need for further activism, some also expressed that the close presidential race did not provide the “massive moral rebuke of Trumpism” that many hoped to see, as Northampton High School student Noah Friedman-Kassis said to the crowd.  

Students speak out

Friedman-Kassis was not the only student to call for change Wednesday. While not all were old enough to vote Tuesday, that didn’t stop another crowd of young people and other protesters from gathering in front of City Hall to raise their voices in support of police abolition in a demonstration organized by Northampton Abolition Now.

About 100 people wearing masks and face shields met at Sheldon Field mid-afternoon and marched to upper Main Street, chanting “no justice, no peace, abolish the police” while carrying signs like “say no to fascism,” “Black Lives Matter” and “dismantle white supremacy.”

Rayzie Benjamin, a 14-year-old Northampton High School student, said she showed up in part because she felt “helpless” as the election took place. “I can’t vote,” she said. “I felt helpless sitting at my house, and the country is burning.”

Noa Carter-Weidenfeld, also 14 and a student at NHS, said her goal was “spreading awareness and getting the word out” about police brutality and abolition. 

The lead organizers of the rally were two 16-year-olds, Haven and Kala, who declined to give their last names because, they said, they feared white supremacists would dox them — or publish their private information, such as addresses or phone numbers, which is done to intimidate, scare or embarrass someone.

But they came with a list of demands from Northampton Abolition Now, including that Mayor David Narkewicz reallocate funding that was cut from the Northampton Police Department budget this summer after public pressure, funding “that the community worked to democratically claim this year,” one of the organizers said.

The organizers also wanted to see a 50% reduction of the police budget in the next fiscal year, “and cuts to police department budgets around the Connecticut River Valley,” Kala told the crowd. They want to see a warming center opened in the city, where the police are not involved and there are no sobriety requirements, as well. 

The group handed out a pamphlet titled, “What is abolition? + Why do we need it in Northampton?” 

It includes a definition of abolition: “a full dismantling of the carceral state and the institutions that support it, coupled with bold investments in a future that puts justice and the needs of the community first.”

Haven told the crowd that she knew “no matter who is elected, marginalized people will continue to face harm.” On the steps near her rested a sign: “Build bridges not walls.”

Several other speakers addressed the crowd, including Raghav Surya, a 17-year-old from Belchertown, who said many people chose one presidential candidate on Tuesday in the name of “harm reduction and compromise … This system fails millions.”

The Gazette’s calls to Narkewicz and Police Chief Jody Kasper were not returned by Wednesday evening. A police officer at the scene of the protest declined to comment and said he had been instructed to direct questions to Kasper.

Neither of the lead organizers lives in Northampton, “but Northampton is where we spend all our time,” Haven told the Gazette. They saw organizing around police abolition in Northampton and wanted to support it.

“We hope the work we do in Northampton can affect other towns in our area,” Haven said.

Though they led the event Wednesday, they clarified that they did not start Northampton Abolition Now.




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