Rallies held for social, racial justice on anniversary of George Floyd murder

SUNDERLAND — Three years after a police officer murdered George Floyd in Minneapolis, his legacy survives his shortened time on Earth, even on the other side of the country.

Rallies across Franklin County on Thursday, the anniversary of his death, were a testament to this. Social and racial justice advocates held standouts in Ashfield, Charlemont, Greenfield, Shelburne, Shelburne Falls and Sunderland, the site of one of the day’s larger gatherings.

More than two dozen people attended Sunderland’s rally, which began at 4 p.m. at the Sunderland Public Library and proceeded with a march to the Sunderland Bridge. The event was sponsored by the Sunderland Human Rights Task Force, Deerfield Inclusion Group and Hatfield Equity Alliance Against Racism Together, which have hosted similar standouts over the past few years to continue raising awareness about racial justice in the U.S.

“We’re out here commemorating the murder of George Floyd because we want to remind people that it’s not over,” said Susan Triolo, a member of the Sunderland Human Rights Task Force. “The violence and the racism is still really prevalent.”

“We don’t want anyone to forget what happened to him,” said Greenfield resident Erika McGee, adding that Floyd’s murder was not merely a racial injustice, but a humanitarian one. “He was one human being murdered by another human being in such a vicious and violent way. I still hear and see him calling for his mother on the ground as Officer [Derek] Chauvin applied pressure to his neck, cut off his airway and stopped him from breathing.”

As they marched, demonstrators displayed handmade signs and shouted chants in unison.

“When Black lives are under attack, what do we do?” Triolo called out.

“Stand up and fight back!” the group responded.

Among the voices present were those from activists as young as 9 years old.

“It makes me feel proud,” 9-year-old Leila Relin said of representing her generation at the rally.

“I think it’s important because it’s showing up for the community,” said Elijah Relin, Leila’s 12-year-old brother. “It shows that we support Black rights.”

“I think it’s important to show we care for Black people’s rights and to show that inequality is not good,” said 12-year-old Macaiden Brees.

Triolo expressed that maintaining momentum with this movement is crucial because “a better world for people coming up is possible.” Rallies, she said, may help raise awareness toward aspects of modern-day racism that many don’t understand, such as the concept of white privilege. McGee added that Massachusetts is particularly relevant as a candidate for education and social betterment.

“For those that don’t know, Massachusetts was actually the first state in the union that started slavery,” McGee explained. “Elizabeth Friedman and Quock Walker sued the state of Massachusetts for their freedom, and that’s how we got rid of slavery here in Massachusetts. I think it’s definitely significant, being in this type of environment, that protests like this go on and demonstrations like this happen in this community.”

Reach Julian Mendoza at 413-930-4231 or jmendoza@recorder.com.

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