Hundreds of peaceful protesters gathered Wednesday on the Mashpee rotary to demand an end to police violence against black people and other racial minorities.
For over three hours, people at the intersection of Routes 28 and 151 carried signs that read “I can’t breathe,” “White silence is violence” and “Black Lives Matter.” They chanted and cheered while cars, trucks, and motorcycles driving around the rotary honked to show their support. At its peak, an estimated 500 people participated in the protest, most wearing face masks amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Nicole Barbell of Mashpee said she came because of her children.
“After all these years I should not have to be in fear of my son going to the store -- that something’s going to happen to him by either another citizen or police brutality,” she said. “It’s completely unacceptable. And I will do everything I can to stand up for it. I will not be silent.”
She called for an immediate end to racial profiling by police.
Evan Kurker of Mashpee said it was the first time he was motivated to attend a protest.
“I’ve seen every single different variety of hate and racism, whether it’s [against] Wampanoag, black, Hispanic immigrants who work for people,” Kurker said. “Eventually you hit a limit and that’s it. There’s no reason to be silent anymore.”
The demonstrations were sparked by the death of George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for over eight minutes. That officer has been charged with second-degree murder, among other offenses, and three other officers were charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
At the Mashpee protest, two police officers on bikes confirmed they were the only officers on site. They watched from a distance, never crossing into the rotary itself. Representatives from the Mashpee Police Department didn’t respond to a request for comment on the day’s event.
Mashpee resident Juarez Stanley says he’s been discriminated against many times on the Cape, but it was “amazing” to see so many people of different races show compassion and solidarity at the protest.
“This is very hopeful to see all these people here. You can count the people. There’s more white people out here than there’s black people,” he said. “We’re on the Cape, but still!”
Jessie Little Doe Baird, vice chairwoman for the Wampanoag tribe, said as a local leader, woman, and tribe member, it was crucial to show support.
“It’s encoded in our DNA what oppression looks like, what suffering looks like, what loss looks like,” she said.