“This is what a miracle looks like! This is what democracy looks like!” It is one of the first chants of the Black Lives Matter protest in Northampton on June 6, 2020. We are twelve minutes into the 4pm protest and already there are over three thousand people here. These streets were not designed for protest. There isn’t enough space. From one end of center street to the other, protestors are squeezed together, thinning out a bit near State Street on one end but pouring out onto Main Street at the other end.  

 

The highlighted area shows the spread of people at the height of the protest outside the Northampton Police Department
The highlighted area shows the spread of people at the height of the protest outside the Northampton Police Department

 

The TD Bank parking lot, opposite the Northampton Police Department is also full of people, not as squished together as those on Center Street. On the other side of the street steel barriers keep the crowd away from the police building. Eight policemen in black masks stand guard between the barricade and the building. In the parking garage beyond them, members of the National Guard wait to spring into action should any trouble arise.  There are now over 4,000 people here, some with their children. God forbid that a stampede takes place.

I have just come from Greenfield where I caught the tail end of a protest there. Hundreds of people attended that one. In downtown Boston last week, I witnessed the anger of over two thousand young people demanding justice for Floyd. In Amherst and Springfield as well, I have seen the swell of frustration and the mass expressions of shock at the state of policing in the USA. 

Even in the absence of crowds, some still take to the streets alone as did this woman in Hadley

If this is not a turning point for change, I don’t know what it will take to drive the message home. 

 

 

At all these protests, I can hear the distant echoes of songs from the protests I attended in Zimbabwe. They play in my head. The trauma of those protests is that they fell on deaf ears.