BURRILLVILLE – Around 40 protestors – most dressed in black – walked the streets of Harrisville Thursday afternoon chanting the name of a Minneapolis man killed on May 25 during an encounter with law enforcement: George Floyd.
The protest, a localized version of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations taking place across the United States and beyond, was organized by Nikki Felice, a Burrillville High School graduate who now attends Northeastern University.
“Push for change. Stand up for justice. Use your voice,” a flyer for the event noted. “Join us in a demonstration to show our community we won’t stand for racism or police violence anywhere.”
Many who showed up Thursday afternoon were young. All wore facial coverings aimed at curbing the spread of Covid-19.
“I really appreciate all of your support,” Felice yelled to the group assembled at Eccleston Field. “Just to repeat: this is a peaceful thing.”
Felice notified the Burrillville Police Department of the event, and officers stopped traffic for the group as they marched across Harrisville Main Street
“It’s just to keep them safe,” Burrillville Police Col. Stephen Lynch said of the police presence. “Nikki Felice has been really great.”
While not every vehicle honked in support of the movement and those marching through the village this week, many did. From the window of an apartment by Town Hall, shouts of “thank you,” could be heard, and others joined the protestors as they walked.
On the sidewalk by East Avenue, nearly all in attendance laid down in silence with their hands behind their backs for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the same amount of time a Minneapolis police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck.
In case you haven’t witnessed a recent Black Lives Matter protest, there’s a reason the symbolic gesture has been used to raise awareness about the tragic death of the 46-year-old: in silence, it feels like a very long time.
By Harrisville Mill Pond, protestors knelt while recent BHS Class of 2020 graduate Destiny Ceesay read off dozens of names of others killed in officer-involved incidents, ending with Floyd.
“We must continue to say their names,” Ceesay said. “They were silent so we must be loud.”