Hundreds of people gathered in Hyannis on Sunday to demand racial justice and equal treatment of black people by police.
After marching from the Cape Cod Resort and Conference Center, protestors sank to their knees and spent 8 minutes and 46 seconds in silence on the Hyannis Village Green to honor George Floyd, who died after a Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for that amount of time.
Over the course of the event, organized by Cape Codders Against Racism and the Democratic Socialists Alliance, around 15 black, white, and Wampanoag speakers took turns delivering speeches, poems, and call-and-response into a microphone.
Activists and organizers like MaryAnn Barboza repeatedly urged the crowd to get involved and vote. The protests, she said, are now about much more than Floyd’s death.
“I was asked the other day, ‘Well, all the officers were charged. Why are they still’— wait a minute,” she said. “We are fighting to change the laws. We are going to keep fighting until laws are changed.”
One speaker, Jonathan Thompson, said he's afraid of how his son and daughter, who are mixed race, might be treated by police someday.
“I gotta worry about my daughter. If she's accidentally—because my daughter's like that. 'Hey what are you doing? Leave him alone. He's not doing anything,’” he imagined. “[Then] everything has just escalated, went from here, from a small traffic ticket to, 'What do you mean, my daughter's gone? What do you mean, my son's gone?’”
From the crowd, Frank Anigbo of Barnstable Village said he hadn’t entirely explained to his seven-year-old son why they were protesting.
“Every time he asks we say this is about George Floyd, but it’s more than that,” Anigbo said. “You know? I’m not quite ready to break it to him that it’s about him, too.”
The time will come when Anigbo sits his son down, and explains that the color of his skin could “mark him for discrimination.” When he imagines that conversation, he said, he feels “just incredible sadness.”
Also among those invited to speak was Barnstable Police Chief Matthew Sonnabend, who said the officers he knows joined to make communities better.
“They are disgusted and upset,” he said. What happened to George Floyd "should not have happened to anybody,” he said to applause. “Nobody.”
But Jessel Mejia, who is Afro-Latina, was one of several who called out from the crowd, skeptical of the police chief's sincerity.
Mejia said she’s seen a lot of racism on Cape Cod, and wants to know how local police will make sure that what happened in Minnesota to George Floyd never happens here.
“We keep saying we need to see change, right? And change starts where?” she asked the crowd. “And what’s home doing?”
More rallies are planned for Yarmouth, South Dennis, and West Harwich in the coming days.