Updated 12:25 pm, Tuesday*
For 10 consecutive mornings, Chilmark residents have gathered at Beetlebung Corner to kneel in solidarity with people across the country who are protesting police brutality and systemic racism.
The demonstration, which begins daily at 10:30 am, was started by Dana Nunes, and has since been organized and led by comedian Amy Schumer, a seasonal resident of the Vineyard. Each morning, attendees honor a different victim of police violence, kneeling in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the time that fired Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck before he died.
On Monday morning, participants chose to remember Walter Scott, an unarmed black man who was shot and killed by North Charleston police in South Carolina in 2015 after he was stopped for a broken taillight.
Monday’s gathering concluded with participants chanting “say his name,” and attendees responding “Walter Scott.”
Nunes began the demonstrations after she saw a Black Lives Matter poster had been torn apart while driving home. “Whoever ripped that sign is going to be regretful, because now they have a black woman and a sign,” she said. Beginning Friday, June 5, Nunes stood alone at Beetlebung Corner. She was determined to stand, unmoved, in the same spot for three hours every day that week. “I am the mother of black men,” she said. “I fear what is out there for my sons.”
Schumer was driving through the intersection when she saw Nunes, and decided to join her.
After an hour of standing in solidarity, the two decided to reconvene the following day, bringing a towel so they could kneel in honor of George Floyd without fear of tick bites.
Schumer told her friends about the demonstration, and word spread quickly. That Saturday, 77 people arrived for the demonstration. “At 10:30, it was like a flash mob showed up,” said Nunes. “People came from all directions, showing up in droves.”
For the remainder of the week, Nunes continued to stand at Beetlebung Corner from 9 am till noon. Each day, a crowd — sometimes as many as 100 people — would join her at 10:30 and kneel alongside her in honor of a victim of police brutality.
As Nunes’s initial plan was to demonstrate daily for one week, she no longer joins the crowd at Beetlebung Corner every morning. She is happy, though, to see Schumer continue the demonstration. “Amy saw the need for some sort of ritual that people could become involved in,” said Nunes. “She can organize, she can get people to show up.”
Schumer and a sizable crowd of Chilmark residents have continued to congregate at Beetlebung Corner and bring attention to the many lives lost at the hands of police officers. Schumer says they will continue meeting for as many days as they can. The group has also started a mailing list (firstname.lastname@example.org). Those on the mailing list are informed of action items they can take to support the Black Lives Matter movement, including supporting black businesses, filling out census data reports, and voting.
“There is a lot of energy and a lot of really great people on this Island who want to be part of making change,” said Schumer.