Protesters in New Bedford gathered Wednesday for the fifth consecutive day to denounce police brutality against black Americans in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minnesota.
By mid-afternoon, passing drivers honked their horns in an almost constant chorus of support for the 70-odd people who stood at a busy downtown intersection, holding signs that read, “Black lives matter,” “No justice! No peace! No racist police!” and, “There comes a time when silence is betrayal.”
Floyd, who was black, died May 25 after a white Minneapolis police officer used his knee to pin Floyd to the ground for about eight minutes, even as he repeatedly said he couldn’t breathe.
The New Bedford protesters condemned what they say is police officers’ excessive use of force against black people. Chanting, “White silence equals violence,” they also called on white people to acknowledge their privilege and end systemic racism.
“For a lot of time, black lives have not mattered in this country,” said Brandon Burke, 23, of New Bedford. “We want to make it so that anybody from any race or any background can live freely in America without being profiled. And that’s it.”
One of the leaders, 24-year-old Monique Ogechi Onuoha of New Bedford, said the group wants to build the community up.
“Especially the black community,” she said. “We want to buy properties; we want to buy homes. We want to teach the youth that they can do more than just sports and music. We want to educate them on how to change policies.”
New Bedford Police Chief Joseph Cordeiro visited the scene at the corner of Union and County Streets, as he has on previous days. One day, he took a knee with protesters.
He said he agrees with their message.
“So I’m really proud of everybody that’s been out here for the last four days,” he said. “And especially our younger people have been really impressive, how they’ve been so orderly, civil, and [it’s] a really great way of having their voice heard.”
Some of the demonstrators have called attention to the fatal police shooting of 15-year-old Malcolm Gracia in New Bedford in 2012. That was before Cordeiro became chief, and he didn’t want to talk about it on Wednesday.
Organizers said they’ll meet at the same corner at 11:30 a.m. every day, indefinitely.