Black Lives Matter march draws 300 in West Grove
By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
This past Sunday afternoon, West Grove joined the ranks of the thousands of cities and towns across the United States and the world that have brought both voices and resources together in proclaiming that police violence and racism against African American men and women must come to an immediate end.
At 5 p.m., a crowd estimated at about 300 crowded the common area near the West Grove Library as part of a peaceful Black Lives Matter event that included a unified march through the borough, three public speeches and an eight-minute, forty-six second moment of silence to honor the memory of George Floyd, who was killed on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minn. at the hands of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three other officers, who stood idle while Chauvin jammed his knee into Floyd’s neck for that length of time, suffocating Floyd.
Carrying signs that read “Enough is Enough,” “Silence is Violence” and “Skin Color is Not a Weapon,” the protestors were greeted by event organizer Bryanna Laws, 18, who is nursing student at Temple University and a recent graduate of Avon Grove High School. In her opening comments, Laws shared her own stories of discrimination, which included being the recipient of racist taunts directed at her and her family.
Laws thanked Kristin Proto, the executive director of the Garage Community & Youth Center; Gerald Simpson, chief of the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department; Molly Wood from the West Grove Quaker Meeting House
for their support.
“Seeing all of the other protests across the small towns in our country – as opposed to those in big cities which is what the media is portraying that are violent and not peaceful – I wanted to bring peace to our small community, to unite us,” said Laws, who predicted prior to the start of the event that between 50 and 100 protestors would attend. “I think this event will definitely help to continue the much-needed conversation we need to keep having about this topic, and I think it will help bring us closer together as a community.”
Led by Laws and her fellow organizers, the contingent then marched up Prospect Avenue, then onto East Evergreen Street and to Quaker Alley, where they gathered in front of the West Grove Quaker Meeting House and heard messages from community members Ana Zuvala and Satoria Johnson.
“We are all brothers and sisters under the same sun, under the same God, and sharing the same home on this beautiful earth,” Johnson said. “I know that a lot of people say that they’re colorblind but through colorblindness also comes blindness to the systemic and institutional injustices that take place against people of color. I challenge you today to see color, to value color, and to celebrate the diversity among us. Color is what makes the world such a beautiful and vibrant place.”
The event also included a closing prayer by Police Chaplain Annalie Korengel and an address by Simpson.
“Earlier this week, when Bryanna contacted me to talk about this protest and demonstration, I found a young person solely motivated to bring voice to the many people who have not had a voice, as it relates to the systemic racism, inequity, unfairness, injustice, and so many other things that have affected black people’s lives, and brown people’s lives,” Simpson began. “I will tell you that I have given many speeches in my life, but with this one, I knew right away that my words would fall short at trying to frame in a narrative the pain and hurt and sorry and anger that all of you must feel through the events in Minneapolis, Louisville and all over this country.
“Know that we will always be here to support you, your voice, your constitutional rights, as your partner,” he added. “I’m sure it may feel disingenuous for me to say that I feel your pain, but I am a 37-year law enforcement veteran, and I am at a loss to understand how in God’s name George Floyd lost his life, and how in God’s name ‘I can’t breathe’ is not a signal to help this man breathe and render him aid.”
Simpson shared that under the direction of Korengel, the department will begin to form a committee that will invite community members to offer solutions on how to better relations between law enforcement and the residents they protect.
“In all of the events that have happened around the nation to bring voice and awareness, in the 37 years I have been in this profession, I don’t think there has been one event that has galvanized a nation to finally effect the appropriate change the way this has. I applaud your efforts, I respect them. You will always have a voice with the Southern Chester County Regional Police Department.”
The West Grove march was the second major Black Lives Matter protest in southern Chester County in the past week. On June 1, an estimated 500 people gathered in Kennett Square and marched in similar fashion throughout the borough.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.