By Dakota Antelman, Contributing Writer
Marlborough – Organizers celebrated an unexpected turnout for their Black Lives Matter protest in Marlborough, June 2, peacefully gathering a day after they said they faced threats and verbal attacks in the same spot.
This protest featured roughly an hour of speeches by community leaders and maintained a peaceful atmosphere as cars honked in support passing the crowd on Marlborough’s Union Common.
Even so, however, the events took place in the shadow of a handful of tense moments the day before.
“It’s a hostile climate when you’re standing out here,” said Vickie Paquette, who organized the event.
Paquette said at least one man intentionally coughed on her, an act she took as being extremely aggressive particularly during the COVID-19 health crisis.
Another man, she said, also threatened to run her over with his car if she continued protesting.
Later, Paquette and several other protesters said a woman pulled up to the crowd and began arguing with teenage protestor Derrick DeSousa. That culminated in the woman directing a volley of racial slurs at DeSousa, who is Black.
“I don’t like that,” DeSousa said of the incident. “I don’t think anyone should have to deal with that in today’s society.”
Though other interactions remained overwhelmingly positive, according to protesters, isolated verbal confrontations, demonstrators said, take on elevated meaning in the current climate.
The killing of George Floyd, a Black man, who died after being pinned down by the knee to his neck for nearly nine minutes on May 25, has touched off nationwide protests and a broader uproar over police brutality in the US.
As some protests as close as Boston have turned violent, protestors and other community members alike have worried, particularly in online Facebook groups, about suburban demonstrations eliciting similar conflict.
Insisting things need to remain peaceful, Marlborough protest organizers said they see the need for these events in fact precisely because of local communities’ suburban identities.
“We don’t really have the same experiences as urban people,” said Kathy Ekdahl, a Hudson advocate who attended the June 2 protest. “A lot of us are in denial or have never experienced any form of racism so we can’t change this unless everybody is involved.”
Marlborough is not alone in peaceful demonstration.
Students in Southborough held signs over the weekend calling for justice for George Floyd and proclaiming the “black lives matter” message.
Protests will also be held this Saturday in Northborough and in Westborough on Sunday.
As a national movement arrives in the region, organizers are celebrating their peaceful displays of emotion and hoping the political will for change continues locally, regionally, and nationally.
“This shouldn’t be a problem in today’s society,” DeSousa, who said his father and grandfather openly acknowledge the racism they faced in their youth, said. “This is energy. This is a movement that we have to keep going.”
(Photos and video by/Dakota Antelman)