Wednesday afternoon a number of protesters gathered in downtown Norwich in response to legislation suggestions from a group of sheriffs from around the Southern Tier. Black Lives Matter representative said law enforcement’s suggestions would lead to less transparency, and had proposals of their own. This editorial is a first person opinion from reporter Zachary Meseck based on his observations at the protest.
It seems like Unite Chenango and the local Black Lives Matter movement is headed towards a fork in the road. Yesterday, some members of the movement were clearly focused on trying to make a change in their community, while others appeared to have different goals.
As a reporter I’ve attended two Black Lives Matter events in Norwich, with the most recent being The People’s March on Wednesday night.
There was a lot more conflict between protestors at this event compared to the last one. Some of the conflict seemed to be over certain people not wearing masks, other parts seemed to be based on ideological differences between protestors and counter protesting groups.
At times, signs were broken, hands were put on others, and profanity filled the air.
Instances of physical altercations appeared to be between Blue Lives Matter and Black Lives Matter protestors who shared the Chenango County Courthouse steps. The fights pulled attention away from speakers and overshadowed the overall themes they conveyed.
I remember at the first event, I asked several people in the crowd why they were there, some answered that they were there to make a difference and others answered that they weren’t really sure.
This time amidst speeches about change, there was some guy running around shirtless, and in either his shorts or his underwear.
Each time there is an event like this, people in the community watch and listen for what is being done and said. When there are altercations, people in the movement yelling at others over the keynote speakers, and random disruptions, it discredits the cause.
There were some emotional and well thought out speakers at the event, but if you were to review the dozens of people’s cell phone footage that attended the event, I’m guessing you would find that the fights and yelling matches received a lot of attention from their lenses.
I noticed that other members of the media were certainly drawn to the conflicts.
One of Unite Chenango’s Leaders, Amanda Mills, made a passionate speech and “a list of demands” including that the Norwich Common Council needed to address the Black Lives Matter movement, that there should be a wall mural in downtown Norwich, and the creation of a historical landmark at the Sannick Family Farm.
After attending these events, I have a question for Unite Chenango, the local Black Lives Matter movement, and the local Blue Lives Matter movement.
Besides just holding or counter protesting another event like this, why not go to the people who have the authority to make the changes you’re asking for? If you’re intent on making a change, get organized, meet with local officials, and tell them why they should implement your ideas.
The event seemed to draw people who were purposefully antagonistic, like a man with the Confederate Flag wrapped around his face as a mask, and another person with a sign that read, “White lives matter, blue lives matter, black lives matter crawl back under the rock you came out of, if you don’t love America get out.”
This kind of sign leads to unnecessary conflict, it’s poor word choice, and I would wager that its a part of the reason why there were issues on Wednesday.
Why was the Blue Lives Matter group there at all? Wouldn’t it have been better to stick to the event you had planned for later in the week? Were you there to promote it, or strictly as counter protestors?
It doesn’t really make sense to counter protest either event, and making the argument that all lives matter isn’t going to change anyone’s mind in the middle of a protest, if that was the goal.
Blue Lives Matter activists, if your goal is to support local law enforcement, why not reach out to them and ask what you can do to help? Maybe I’m missing something, but interrupting a protest seems unnecessary and counterproductive if the goal is to try and convince the protestors of your ideologies.
With a pandemic going on and infection rates slowly rising in Chenango County, hosting big events like these could do more harm than good in either case.
To leaders on both sides, I would suggest reaching out to each other before your next event. It may help your causes create meaningful change if there are less altercations at future events.