Rallies Converge On Main Street, Conclude In Front Of Police Station
Two peaceful rallies planned for Sunday afternoon on Main Street converged into one, with one large group eventually ending up in the front parking lot of Newtown Police Department before dispersing.
Both events were publicized as peaceful gatherings, although it was unclear from fliers and online posts who organizers were for either. Both were meant to show support for racial equality, and each came as a result of the death in May of George Floyd in Minneapolis. The 46-year-old Floyd, a black man, was on the ground, face down, when a white police officer knelt on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds. The compression led to Floyd suffocating and then dying.
The incident has led to protests, rallies, and even riots across the country and around the world. The two events planned for Newtown were filled with voices of reason, as well as angry voices.
The first gathering began in front of Edmond Town Hall at 2 o’clock. Bearing signs that said Enough Is Enough, Black Lives Matter, and Say Their Names, among others, the crowd also began chants that continued off and on for the next 90-minutes.
Male and female voices took turns leading the chants. “Say his name!” “Say her name” and “No justice, no peace” were repeated by those in the crowd, which moved from the building at 45 Main Street to the historic flagpole in the middle of the Main Street-Church Hill Road-West Street intersection around 2:30 pm, where the second event was scheduled to begin.
Newtown resident Jim Allyn, who was part of the group involved in organizing the second event, had planned for that gathering to last approximately 20 minutes. He had asked those planning to attend to kneel for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, and then to sing the national anthem in the key of G. The kneeling happened but the national anthem was pulled from the plan Saturday evening, Allyn told The Newtown Bee late Sunday afternoon.
Main Street was closed between its intersections with Hanover Road and Sugar Street during the two events. When the crowd — which Newtown police estimated at between 1,000 and 1,500 people strong — knelt at the flagpole, the chanting crowd fell silent. Only the sound of the whipping flag at the top of the flagpole and leaves on trees in front of Newtown Meeting House could be heard for a few minutes.
Once the actions at the flagpole were completed the group moved again, this time south to the police department. The crowd again chanted while making the 600-yard trek, and them filled the parking lot in front of the town building upon arrival. As chanting continued, Police Chief James Viadero spoke to the group.
Standing with a few uniformed officers behind him, Viadero told the crowd that he and his department hear them, and they stand with them.
“We all saw the video that brought you here today, and we were disgusted by it,” he said.
Many in the crowd challenged the police chief to say “Black Lives Matter,” repeating the chant before one young black man, Jason Wilson, stepped toward Viadero, then held his hands up to the crowd, asking for quiet.
“Stop!” he said. “We don’t know them. They don’t know us. We couldn’t even be quiet for 8 minutes and 46 seconds up at the flagpole. We have to listen to each other. We can’t keep yelling at each other.
“They helped us today,” Wilson said. “Who here really believes we can really make a change?”
Loud applause and cheers were the response he was again given.
“We need to do better,” he continued. “This has been going on too long.”
Wilson then turned and shook hands with Viadero, which was again greeted with applause and cheers.
The gathering continued for another 30-plus minutes, with a few people making statements. Some in the crowd challenged each other, most remained respectful of the opinions being shared. When the group finally broke up around 3:30, a number of people approached the police officers and thanked them for their time.
Additional photos and coverage will be offered in the June 12, 2020 print edition of The Newtown Bee.