A group of protesters marched down Main Street in Edgartown Saturday, demanding racial equity, defunding of the police, and justice for the African Americans and minorities who have died at the hands of law enforcement officers.
The Black Lives Matter march proceeded into downtown Edgartown at around 10:30 am, with about 15 people holding signs, banners, and playing reggae music. Many people stopped to clap, cheer, or raise their fist high in the air. After arriving at Memorial Wharf, the participants walked up the stairs to the balcony and waved their signs so that boaters in Edgartown Harbor could read their messages.
One sign said “Love thy neighbor,” while another said, “There’s a difference between the concept of freedom and the reality of equality.”
Eugene Langston-Jemison, one of the co-organizers of the march, said that dismantling systemic racism in America is a “huge challenge,” and where to start on that journey is a tough question to answer. “If you want to kill a snake, you have to cut off the head. We need to be rid of these racist people in positions of power and change the way things work, change the way people see each other,” Langston-Jemison said. “We need to get rid of this old-school traditional mindset where customs are what drive our actions today.”
He said the most important thing for people to do (especially young people) is to educate themselves on racial issues and the plight of African Americans and minorities that is ongoing in this country, and then vote. “You have a say, you have a voice, you need to use it to speak up for what is right,” Langston-Jemison said.
Co-organizer Carla Cooper said voter access needs to be increased, and gerrymandering needs to end for good. She advocated for oppressed populations, and said that their voices need to be heard.
“We need more mail-in ballots, we need more absentee ballots, we need people who might not normally vote or be able to vote to turn out this year,” Cooper said.
When asked what vision she has for a better America, Cooper pointed to Langston-Jemison and Edgartown Police Chief Bruce McNamee, who helped escort the procession and blocked off traffic.
“I see these two guys [Langston-Jemison and McNamee] joking with each other and being friends, I see their understanding in one another, and I think that is really the key to all this. We need to come together for a common good,” Cooper said.
Cooper said that qualified immunity needs to end for police officers, and there needs to be more accountability when there is misconduct within a department. “If you are a doctor, you can get sued for medical malpractice. Why shouldn’t the police be treated in the same way?” Cooper asked.
She said that peer intervention in a situation where a police officer is exhibiting misconduct could make a big difference.
“The blue code of silence needs to end,” said marcher Amy Cuzzupoli. “Who is policing the police?”
But on Martha’s Vineyard, Langston-Jemison said that out of all the places he has lived, he has never felt so secure and confident in the public and the police.
“Nowhere else where I have lived could I feel so easily the hope. You can feel it, you can see it, and you know that this is a good place to be. We are thankful for this community and the people in it,” Langston-Jemison said. “For the first time today, my young son reached out to a policeman and grabbed his hand — that is humanity in one accord.”