‘It’s an ongoing fight, it doesn’t stop’

Chilmark rally attracts about 150 people in support of ongoing protests.

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On Saturday, nearly 150 demonstrators met on the fields of the Chilmark library to kneel in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and inspire more peaceful protests on the Island. Despite temperatures rising well into the 80s with heavy humidity, participants were eager to show their support for the movement, cheer on speakers, and reflect on police brutality and systemic racism. 

While demonstrators have met daily at Beetlebung Corner since June 6 to protest police brutality and systemic racism, Saturday’s event was the largest — attracting five times as many people as the daily protests — and most intently coordinated. The demonstration featured multiple speakers, including youth activists Graysen Kirk, Kiely Rigali, and Lisette Williams, as well as activist Awet Woldegebriel and comedian Amy Schumer. It also featured a musical performance by David Saw, Darby Patterson, and Phil DaRosa. 

Saturday’s demonstration was coordinated by Williams, Kirk, and Rigali. Williams is a seasonal resident from Cambridge, and a Martha’s Vineyard Polar Bear; Kirk is a Chilmark resident; and Rigali is a special education teacher at the Edgartown School. The three have been working together since early June to plan various demonstrations around the Island, and decided to collaborate with Dana Nunes to bring more attention to her up-Island activism.

“We realized that there was something going on already that we could galvanize people to and put a spotlight on,” Williams said. By using platforms like Snapchat, Instagram, and Facebook, Williams, Kirk, and Rigali were able to spread more awareness about the Chilmark demonstration, and garner a larger crowd for Saturday’s event. 

Starting at 10:15 am, demonstrators began gathering around the fields of the Chilmark Library, carrying signs with expressions such as, “Black lives more than matter,” “Vote against hate,” and “Still waiting for liberty and justice for all.” Cars passing through the intersection showed their support, honking their horns, raising their fists out the window, or giving the crowd thumbs-ups. As more people arrived, participants were able to utilize the larger venue to maintain distance between themselves and other demonstrators, and each person present was wearing a face mask. 

The event began with brief speeches from Williams, Rigali, and Kirk, who spoke about systemic racism and combating racial injustice. “It’s an ongoing fight, it doesn’t stop,” Kirk said. “People can’t just come to these protests and be done. Your work is never done until there is peace.”

Nunes, who started the Beetlebung protests nearly two months ago, also addressed the crowd. When she began her demonstration, Nunes intended to stand at Beetlebung Corner from 9 am to noon, every day for a week. “I needed to be out here for my two grown, black sons,” Nunes said. “I needed to be here for my grown daughters, who are people of color. I needed to be out here for my cousin, who was one of the names that we honored.” 

With the help of Schumer and Woldegebriel, Nunes’s efforts have since become a daily demonstration, where a different victim of police brutality is recognized each morning. 

For Saturday’s demonstration, protestors honored Kathryn Johnston, a 92-year-old Black woman who was shot and killed by undercover police officers in her home in Atlanta, Ga., in 2006, after officers secured a no-knock warrant under false pretenses. In addition to police brutality, Kendra Salvatore, who shared Johnston’s story with the crowd, addressed redlining, the war on drugs, law enforcement systems, and gun laws. “These are just a few of the many systems set up to systemically kill Black americans, which persisted before Kathryn’s 92-year life, and unfortunately, still persist today,” Salvatore said. 

After hearing the story of Kathryn Johnston, the crowd silently kneeled for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the same time that fired Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kept his knee on George Floyd’s neck before he died. When the time had passed, Nunes led a call-and-response with the crowd, shouting, “Say her name,” and the crowd shouting, “Kathryn Johnston” back. 

The event was coordinated with the help of Chilmark Police Chief Jonathan Klaren, who put out no-parking signs and offered to assist with the flow of traffic if need be. A police presence was not necessary, as the event was able to proceed peacefully without any interruptions or instigation. “Jonathan is a mensch,” Nunes said. “If the police departments across America were stacked with men like him, we’d have to find something else to do. We’d have to find something else to protest, because he is remarkable, and I can’t thank him enough for all he has done for us.” 

While the collaboration between Nunes and Williams, Kirk, and Rigali was intended to spread awareness about the Beetlebung protests, it was also meant to inspire other Island communities to start their own daily demonstration. Fighting systemic racism, Nunes said, matters everywhere, and needs to be seen by everyone. 

21 COMMENTS

  1. The words of Sheriff David Clarke:

    “It’s not the police who need to be retrained, it’s the public. We have grown into a mouthy, mobile phone wielding, vulgar, uncivil society with no personal responsibility and the attitude of ‘it’s the other person’s fault’, ‘you owe me’. A society where children grow up with no boundaries or knowledge or concern for civil society and personal responsibility.

    When an officer says “Put your hands up,” then put your hands up! Don’t reach for something in your pocket, your lap, your seat. There’s plenty of reason for a police officer to feel threatened, there have been multiple assaults and ambushes on police officers lately. Comply with requests from the officer, have your day in court. Don’t mouth off, or fight, or refuse to comply… that escalates the situation.

    Police officers are our sons and daughters, fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters. They’re black, white, brown, all colours, all ethnicities, all faiths, male and female, they are us. They see the worst side of humanity… the raped children, the bloody mangled bodies of traffic victims, the bruised and battered victims of domestic violence, homicide victims, body parts… day after day.

    They work holidays while we have festive meals with our families. They miss school events with their kids, birthdays, anniversaries, all those special occasions that we take for granted. They work in all types of weather, under dangerous conditions, for relatively low pay.

    They have extensive training, but they are human. When there are numerous attacks on them, they become hyper vigilant for a reason, they have become targets. When a police officer encounters any person… any person, whether at a traffic stop, a street confrontation, an arrest, whatever… that situation has the potential to become life threatening. You, Mr & Mrs/Miss Civilian, also have the responsibility of keeping the situation from getting out of control.

    Many law enforcement officers are Veterans. They’ve been in service to this nation most of their lives, whether on the battlefield or protecting us here at home. They are the only thing that stands between us and anarchy in the streets.

    If you want to protect your child, teach them respect.”

  2. Yes, it will stop when Mother’s get together and march against the crime in the cities overrun with criminals; yes, it will stop when Mother’s are tired of having babies shot to death; yes, it will stop when Mother’s decide they have had enough of killing in their communities; standing on a verdant patch of green on a safe island and complaining is not going to stop it. You may draw attention to it with the “woke” but it does not change one darn thing. Mother’s have got to get involved and enough is enough. Get a caravan going loaded up with Mother’s and drive to Chicago, New York, Minneapolis and hold your signs up there….this is not PC, I realize it, but neither is having babies killed.

    • After writing and sending my comment, in my zeal I realized I used the possessive form rather than the plural form of Mother. At times, my passionate attitude will interfere with my writing correctly. I offer no apology. Just a clarification.

      • Augustawynd. It is not about criminals or thugs or vandals or rioters burning down our cities and tearing down our statues. It is about peaceful protesters who simply want change being shot down by Trumps storm troopers. This is the conceit shown by some on these pages. Cognitive dissonance and such hate for Trump that they wont see with their own eyes and are hypnotized by CNN and MSNBC and ABC and CBS.

    • Being outside, wearing a mask, and social distancing is so much more safe than singing and talking while shoulder to shoulder indoors and not wearing a mask. Where’ve you been that you don’t know the difference? But it’s true, to be entirely safe, don’t do either. There are ways to lend support for BLM if you are at high risk.

      • The same 1st amendment that protects protesters also protects churchgoers. And you can easily sing through a mask. It would be nice if churches were given the same choice, and benefit of the doubt, that these protesters get. Maybe it’s not about controlling gathering, but controlling the narrative?

          • And you say there is no such thing as systemic racism? You probably don’t understand how racist your comment is.

          • Jackie, my comment weaves a basic hypocrisy with a little humor, and underscores the actual place of “systemic racism,” and that’s in the democrat party – in the past and in the present. In case you missed the basic hypocrisy: Democrat mayors and governors ban Mozart, Moses, Jesus and Mary for those who meet in relatively small numbers, but welcome and glorify tens of thousands during riots at the altar of Black Lives Matter. And they still do. “Systemic racism” was the democrat party’s support of slavery – both in the north and in the south – before and during the Civil War. “Systemic racism” was the democrat party’s Jim Crow laws. “Systemic racism” was the democrat party’s opposition to the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s. “Systemic racism” was and still is the democrat party’s policies that crush the hopes and spirit of people of color, and that includes the color white.