Local group rallies for ‘Black Lives Matter’

MIDDLEBURY — About 100 Addison County residents and visitors gathered in downtown Middlebury on the evening of Thursday, July 21, to call for an immediate end to police violence against Black people. This was the first of what organizers hope will be many actions undertaken by the new Middlebury chapter of Showing Up for Racial Justice, (SURJ), a national network of groups and individuals organizing White people for racial justice.
Following the murders of Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Delrawn Small and other Black people in the last two weeks, White people across the country have been moved to take action in resistance to police violence and the institutional racism that condones it. The Middlebury vigil featured a “mic check” where names of People of Color who have been killed by police in 2016 were read aloud, then repeated by the crowd. After the name of each slain citizen, the words “Rest in power” were spoken by the group.
“Hearing name after name of U.S. citizens killed by police officers sworn to serve and protect was heartbreaking,” said John Barstow, 62, of Middlebury, one of the many members of the Champlain Valley Unitarian Universalist Society, which co-sponsored the event, present at the action. “We are all responsible if we remain silent in the face of widespread racism in our country.”
“For centuries, police killings of unarmed Black people have been condoned by our society and our elected officials. This must end. We’re calling for the transformation of policing in our society, to re-center its purpose and implementation, so that Black people are no longer tortured, brutalized and murdered by police,” said Piper Harrell, 40, a member of SURJ Middlebury.
The group is calling on local elected officials to commit to clear, concrete steps to make Vermont a leader in the transformation of policing and the entire justice system in the U.S., so that it no longer serves as an agent of anti-Black oppression.
Joanna Colwell, 48, organized the vigil and got the Middlebury chapter of SURJ started.
“Everyone deserves to be safe,” she said. “Communities of color are speaking out, and it’s up to us to hear their cries and walk hand in hand with them. This is not a time to feel helpless, but a time to listen to what People of Color are saying about this grave injustice in our society, and then to act. Our words and actions will not be perfect, as we engage in uncomfortable conversations with friends and neighbors, but we must speak up.”
This vigil in downtown Middlebury was part of a national day of action in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives. Readers who want to learn more about SURJ, can contact Colwell at [email protected].
   AROUND 100 PEOPLE assembled at Fountain Park in downtown Middlebury on Thursday evening to demand racial justice for Black people, particularly in light of recent acts of police violence against Blacks.
See a video of the people at Thursday’s vigil reciting the names of people of color killed by police in 2016. Click below.

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