Protesters of racism, police violence throng downtown Northampton

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  • Protesters, most wearing masks, congregate in the streets of downtown Northampton on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A crowd is seen on Center Street in Northampton during the rally Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Protesters clog the streets of downtown Northampton on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Protesters gather in front of the police station Saturday in downtown Northampton, some seeking cuts in the Police Department budget. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Protesters jam the street in front of Northampton City Hall on Saturday.  STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A large crowd of protesters face police officers across the sidewalk outside the Northampton police station early Saturday evening as more than 1,000 demonstrators gathered in the city to protest racism and police violence. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A handful of protesters gather near a police line Saturday on Gothic Street in Northampton. More than 1,000 demonstrators gathered in the city to protest racism and police violence. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jasmine Sinclair, center, of Black Trans Lives Matter leads the crowd from the Northampton police station to City Hall during the “Stand Up for Black Lives!” protest Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Thousands took part in the “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest Saturday organized by Black Trans Lives Matter in front of Northampton Police Department on Center Street and on the steps of City Hall on Main Street. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Thousands filled Main Street in Northampton for the “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest Saturday organized by Black Trans Lives Matter. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jasmine Sinclair, left, of Black Trans Lives Matter, dances to the beat of a chant shouted by several thousand people who marched to Northampton City Hall during the “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest on Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Thousands took part Saturday in the “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest organized by Black Trans Lives Matter in front of Northampton Police Department and City Hall. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Demonstrators march down Main Street in Northampton to return to the police station on Center Street on Saturday after a short rally on the steps of City Hall during the “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Thousands fill Main Street in Northampton for the “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jasmine Sinclair, top center, of Black Trans Lives Matter leads several thousand people in a moment of silence to begin the “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest Saturday utside the Northampton Police Department on Center Street. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • The “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest Saturday in Northampton began at about 4 p.m. in front of the Northampton Police Department on Center Street. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Several thousand people gathered on Center Street in front of the Northampton Police Department for a “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest Saturday  listen to Jasmine Sinclair, center, with red mask, read a list of demands. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Andrea Schmid of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center reads a list of demands to a crowd gathered Saturday on Center Street outside the Northampton Police Department for the “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Amelia Ellingboe, left, of Greenfield takes part in the “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest Saturday in front of Northampton Police Department on Center Street. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Andrea Schmid, left, of the Pioneer Valley Workers Center, and Jasmine Sinclair of Black Trans Lives Matter take turns reading a list of demands to a crowd gathered Saturday outside the Northampton Police Department for the “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Anissa Neal, right, of Northampton holds her own sign, alluding to Breonna Taylor, during the “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest Saturday in downtown Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Thousands took part in the “Stand Up for Black Lives!” protest Saturday in front of Northampton Police Department and on the steps of City Hall. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jasmine Sinclair, center, of Black Trans Lives Matter, leads the crowd from the Northampton Police Station to City Hall on Saturday during the “Stand Up for Black Lives” protest. STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • A protest organized by Black Trans Lives Matter ends Saturday night with a dance party in the streets of Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A standoff between protesters and police officers during a protest organized by Black Trans Lives Matter on Saturday on Gothic Street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Samara Gaev wtih her 7-week-old child, Mahala Adelei Gaev, at the protest Saturday in downtown Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • A protest in downtown Northampton organized by Black Trans Lives Matter ends Saturday night with a dance party in the streets. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Protesters gather during a standoff between protesters and police officers on Gothic Street in Northampton during the demonstration Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Stef Marotte dances with other protesters at the end of the protest Saturday night in downtown Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Police officers walk way from a standoff between protesters and police officers Saturday on Gothic street in Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Protesters gather during a standoff between protesters and police officers on Gothic Street during the protest Saturday in downtown Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Protesters gather during a standoff between protesters and police officers on Gothic Street during the protest Saturday in downtown Northampton. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Protesters throng Main Street in Northampton during the protest Saturday. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jasmine Sinclair, organizer of the protest Saturday in downtown Northampton, gives the heart sign as the protest ends and she leaves asking participants to not get violent but keep it peaceful. STAFF PHOTO/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jasmine Sinclair, center, with red mask, stands atop a concrete barricade in front of the Northampton Police Station on Center Street to lead several thousand people in a chant during the "Stand Up for Black Lives!" protest presented by Black Trans Lives Matter on Saturday, June 6, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • Jasmine Sinclair, center, with red mask, stands atop a concrete barricade in front of the Northampton Police Station on Center Street to lead several thousand people in a chant during the "Stand Up for Black Lives!" protest presented by Black Trans Lives Matter on Saturday, June 6, 2020. —STAFF PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

Staff Writer
Published: 6/6/2020 6:28:03 PM

NORTHAMPTON — A diverse crowd of around 4,500 protesters packed the street in front of the Northampton police station Saturday afternoon to protest racial violence and police brutality, with many staying around after the formal protest concluded for a tense standoff with state police that ended with law enforcement withdrawing.

Organized by 20-year-old Jasmine Sinclair of Black Trans Lives Matter, the protest was the second this week in front of the Northampton police station and one of many across the country sparked by the murder of George Floyd, the black man from Minneapolis killed by a white police officer after he knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes on Memorial Day.

“I just want people to come together and people to hear a black person’s experience and continue to keep the fire going for change,” said Sinclair, a black trans woman. “It’s not all going to change today but what I’m hoping is that people don’t forget me and that people will continue to stand up.”

Sinclair said she got the idea to organize a peaceful protest after she and a friend were given nasty looks by a white man on a recent walk on Mount Tom the week Floyd was killed.

“I need to stand up for myself — I need to fight back. I am young, I want a good future in this world,” Sinclair said. “I deserve to fight for my rights and, in the future, live in a world that is more accepting of me.”

Big crowd

Following a gathering at Pulaski Park, protesters traveled to Center Street to begin their 4 p.m. protest in front of the city’s police station, where speakers stood on concrete barricades to talk and lead chants. Police appeared much more prepared for Saturday’s protest than Monday’s, during which several participants were pepper-sprayed at the doors of the police station.

On Saturday, eight officers stood guard behind a metal fence placed on a perimeter around the police station and streets were blocked off in some areas to stop car traffic. In a Facebook post, the police department and said the protest ended in no arrests and no reported acts of violence. Several other local police agencies as well as the Massachusetts State Police were also present, police said.

The crowd was so large that it spilled onto Main Street as well as into parking lots on Center Street; multiple chants would start up in different areas of the assembly at the same time. The windows to the Bank of America on Main Street appeared boarded up, as well as the windows of NETA on Conz Street. The sheer number of people was an unusual sight in a time when the COVID-19 pandemic has upended normal ways of life amid social distancing and stay-at-home guidance.

Standing on the sidewalk on Center Street with a sign in hand was Jahlina Carter, 19, of Springfield. Carter, who is Native American, Jamaican and Cuban, said she’s been up 27 hours this week trying to brainstorm different ways she can help make a difference.

“All of this injustice is just eating away at everybody,” Carter said. “Seeing this gives me hope that if enough people come together we can shake this system down and really come out the other side victorious for all people.”

Protesters chanted “no justice, no peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” and “defund the police” as well as the names of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd, among other cries, in front of the station. Most people were wearing face masks and many carried signs, some of them reading “How many weren’t caught on video?” and “White Silence = Violence.”

About an hour into the protest, participants marched to City Hall to deliver a list of demands. Read by Sinclair, these included that the city not accept a nearly $200,000 increase in the police budget for the next fiscal year; a one-third reduction in the Police Department’s budget; the creation of a community oversight board to monitor the police; the creation of restorative justice programs in schools; the elimination of school resource officers; and the elimination of police-based mental health or addiction services, among another half-dozen goals.

“I have hope, and I see the future, and it’s as bright as it can be. It’s as bright as the sun is right now,” said 25-year-old Hawa Tarawally, a speaker, from the steps of City Hall as she pointed to the sky.

Teachers on board

The crowd eventually moved back in front of the police station, and waiting at the entrance of Center Street on Main Street was a racially diverse group of teachers from the area who said they wanted to show up for their communities and friends.

“We think it’s incredibly important that we not only support our black and brown students, but also our black and brown faculty,” said Erin Davey. “It starts here in doing the work but it also starts in educating ourselves as white people.”

“As a black man living somewhere that is not heavily populated with other black people, I definitely wanted to come out and show some support,” said Matt Porter. “I think a lot of times you think about areas like these, people think there isn’t a lot of racial history, racial tension, but as we can see there has been.”

As the protest headed into its last official hour at 6 p.m., a few dozen protesters began congregating on Gothic Street, facing off against approximately 10 expressionless state troopers who stood in a row blocking the street leading to what appeared to be a center of police operations.

Some participants asked the officers to kneel, others argued against this, and many bellowed “Quit your job.”

Once the main protest ended and began dispersing, the group on Gothic Street became larger. Chants became louder, and the state troopers backed up slightly a few times as the crowd swelled. Two police dogs stood behind the officers. Eventually, the officers uniformly left the street in a straight line and disappeared into the Hampshire County Courthouse.

The group of protesters then decided to block the intersection at Main and Pleasant streets by standing in the middle. Energy among the protesters was still tense, but once one participant had a medical emergency in the middle of the intersection, the tenor of the crowd became much less fraught.

People tending to the person sounded off that they were OK, and the crowd cheered. Protesters decided to move back to City Hall to allow for EMS to arrive. Not long after, the crowd — now considerably smaller — decided to move back to the intersection.

In a strange bookend to the day’s events, one person began to play “I Like It” by Cardi B, Bad Bunny and J Balvin and started a small dance party in the middle of the intersection. Other songs were played and danced to, such as “F tha Police” by N.W.A.

As the sun set, protesters moved back to Pulaski Park, where nearly 100 people remained at 8:30 p.m.

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


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