Estimated 500 attend ‘Black Lives Matter’ march in Kennett Square
By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
For a little more than one hour on Monday morning, the twin virtues of Community and Non-Violence melded together in a peaceful kaleidoscope of black, white and brown faces who marched through part of the Kennett Square Borough in perfect solidarity.
A “Black Lives Matter” march, placed on the borough calendar just a few days prior to June 1, drew an estimated 500 protestors to the corner of State and Union streets at 8 a.m., many of whom arrived dressed entirely in black and carrying signs that called for the end of police violence against African American men and women:
“All Lives Can’t Matter until Black Lives Matter.”
“No Justice, No Peace.”
“Silence is Violence.”
“You Don’t Have to be Black to be Outraged.”
As he watched protestors begin to flock to the beginning of the march route just before 8 a.m., Kennett Square Mayor Matt Fetick said that event was in direct keeping with Kennett Square’s past, which made it one of the key safety zones during the Underground Railroad Movement.
“Kennett Square has always had a history of leading civil rights movements, and I fully believe that the greater Kennett area can easily show their frustration, their anger and their grief, and do it peacefully and let their voices be heard,” he said. “I will support that every day.”
Melinda Daniels stood near the corner of State and Union and held up a banner that read, “Justice: Vote out our racists. Speak out in our families & communities.”
“Enough is enough. How many more people are going to die?” Daniels said. “I think the white community has a responsibility to speak up. Too many of us are silent. We look the other way. We have the crazy uncle and the racist father and it has to stop, and we’re the ones who actually have to stop it. It’s a problem in our community, and it’s our responsibility.”
As the Genesis clock began to chime at the 8 a.m. hour, the crowd showed their solidarity by dropping to one knee for a nine-minute moment of silence for George Floyd, the 46-year-old man who was murdered last Monday by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who wedged his knee into Floyd’s neck for a period of eight minutes and 46 seconds until Lloyd lost oxygen, consciousness and his life.
Soon after, Kennett Police Chief William T. Holdsworth was joined by Corporal Kenneth Rongaus, Patrol Officer J.D. Boyer and the department’s chaplain Annalie Korengel in the middle of the State and Union intersection. After halting vehicle traffic in all directions at the intersection, all four dropped to one knee for the entire duration of the moment of silence.
“I was not reluctant about this event in any way,” Holdsworth said. “We support the movement going on here, because what took place [in Minneapolis] was just incredibly horrid. We fully support anyone wanting to come out and exercise his or her constitutional rights, as well as express that this is something that needs to change. Our only job here is to keep them safe as they get the message out.
“It’s difficult for our department to see what takes place in other agencies that we can’t control. It was disgusting to watch that video and what took place with that man, but the truth is we maintain the fact that our values remain strong. We care about this community, and that’s what keeps our morale strong during this challenging time.”
At 8:09 a.m., a lone female voice began the first verse of “Amazing Grace,” and by the end of the first line, hundreds in the crowd followed suit and finished out the verse in harmony.
Speaking through a small bullhorn and peering through a plastic face protector and a mask, event organizer and Kennett Square native Naomi Simonson then led the contingent down State Street, turning left on Meredith Street, left on West Cypress Street, right on South Union Street and headed to the steps of Kennett High School, her alma mater, before leading the contingent back to State and Union streets by way of Broad Street.
“I was hoping very much that this could happen because it was very critical to me,” she said. “Politicians and teachers in the [Kennett Consolidated School District] and local business owners helped make this happen. I just had an idea that the stars would align, and I’m happy to see people taking a stand against police brutality and racism that has been a part of our justice system since it was created.
“We are a community here, and at the end of the day we build our town up and that’s what we will continue to do. We are not here to hurt anyone or anything, but to protect the community and advocate for everyone. Often times, we are not heard, so it means so much to see so many people out here.”
At a few points during her addresses to the crowd, Simonson became overcome with emotion. Several people comforted her, including Korengel.
“I think this event is a sign of the solidarity and unity of Kennett Square, and the way we all come together,” Korengel said. “I think it shows that we know there are better ways to police, and we’re doing it. I was asked yesterday why I would stand with the police today, and I told them it was because they were standing with the rest of the community.”
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.