From 5 to 7 pm during the first week in June, hundreds of residents from all corners of the Bedford community came together to protest the recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and countless other African Americans before them. The goal of the protest: affecting meaningful change to the systemic oppression of African Americans.
Protests in Boston have been occurring since Sunday. Here in Bedford, demonstrations began June 2nd with a smaller group of five Bedford High alumni. “Living in Bedford, we are somewhat removed from some of the issues that People of Color are facing every day,” said Shannon Leonard, one of the organizers. “We may not see or feel the effects of racism in our community but it does exist.”
On Wednesday, more than 200 joined in an awe-inspiring spectacle of unity and positivity. Carrying signs saying “Love your neighbor,” “Say their names,” and many other messages, protestors chanted in remembrance of the victims of systemic racism. “Seeing protests, especially locally, in our own town, it’s so empowering,” said Olivia Roscoe, a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement.
What made the event stand out was who attended. The majority of the attendees were high school and college students. “Quite the contrast to the vigils on the Common for various things that we’ve gone to for the past 25 years, which are usually a dozen or two mostly older people, many from church,” as Alan MacRobert, long-standing member of First Parish Unitarian Universalist, put it. “It’s convinced us something really is happening.”
Along with students, there were many families with young children. Bopha Malone had her children, ages 7 and 10, attend alongside her. “It’s beautiful that my kids get to see these role models, and knowing that when they see something is wrong, they will speak up too,” she said.
As officers Sheldon Maloney and Jared Weisenborn stopped their cruisers in the middle of The Great Road and knelt with the demonstrators, a palpable feeling of pride permeated the air. As Chief Bongiorno put it, “I am enormously proud of our officers who saluted and took a knee during yesterday’s peaceful protest in Bedford. Every day that goes by, I am more and more proud to work in this amazing community. Every member of the Bedford Police Department stands with those who peacefully make their voices heard because your goals are ours as well. We appreciate and celebrate diversity, and seek to treat all people with respect and dignity at all times.”
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“Silence isn’t an option,” says Malone. “It’s powerful, knowing our community stands against this injustice, that we will speak up for what is right for our Black community.”