There were no arrests or other incidents at the June 7 Gardner Walk Against Racial Injustice. About 200 participated in the march, which began at Gardner City Hall, went to Moonlight and then returned. Jay Belcher, Gardner Police Chief, said there were no arrests or other incidents during the walk. He also said there was no property damage reported, although he noted some buildings had been boarded up prior to the march. Photos courtesy of Photo Expectations
Special to The Gardner News
Hundreds of Gardner residents braved the heat June 6 and participated in a peaceful anti-racism protest.
The killing of a black man, Goerge Floyd, by a white police officer in Minneapolis, MN, has sparked nationwide protests which have also led to rioting and looting in several large cities.
The protest in Gardner started at city hall on Main Street and snaked its way to Moonlight Road and back to city hall.
Participants shouted popular Black Lives Matter slogans as well as remembering George Floyd and Breona Taylor, a black woman who was recently killed by police officers who broke into her apartment with a no-knock warrant in Louisville, KY.
Henry Service, an organizer, said he was surprised by the turnout.
“I did not expect this many people to show up in Gardner, but this tells you that people of all colors are getting tired of racism and inequality. I’m proud of this community that I have chosen to be my home.”
Maureen Kimani, a local resident, said she brought her 14 year old son so that he can witness that he is not alone in the fight for equality.
“I’m so proud of my neighbors. They have given us hope,” she said.
Jay Belcher, Gardner Police Chief, estimated the crowd size at 200 and expressed appreciation at how orderly and peaceful the protesters were. Belcher said there were no arrests or other incidents during the walk. He also said there was no property damage reported, although he noted some buildings had been boarded up prior to the march.
Gardner police officers handed cold water bottles to participants.
Several local leaders participated in the protest march including Steve Shute, mayor, and Rich Melton, councilmember.
“We cannot sit idly by as we watch our neighbors’ house get consumed by fire. Our black neighbors and friends are hurting,” Shute said.
He said some of the reforms needed in policing are already implemented by Gardner Police Department including the use of body cameras.
Melton also participated in the protest. He came armed with an AR-15, a Glock and ammo clips. Melton said he came armed to protect the protesters from the police and denied he was out to intimidate the protesters.
After the march, participants had time to interact with GPD and voice any thoughts or concerns.
“The take away I received from talking to participants was that they were very positive and thankful of the Gardner Police Department and happy about conversations at the conclusion of the event,” Belcher said. “For me personally, what I heard from participants is law enforcement needs to consider seeing the point of view through the eyes of someone having that contact with police.”