By Elise Fisch
In the late afternoon of Mon., Sept. 28, citizens of Warwick gathered peacefully in the Village to rally for justice in honor of Breonna Taylor. This march was one of many that took place throughout the country that same week, following grand jury charges in which one officer was indicted for first-degree wanton endangerment after the 26-year-old Kentucky woman was shot and killed by police during a raid on her apartment; two additional officers face no charges.
A small crowd of impassioned locals assembled in the CVS parking lot, wearing masks and holding signs as volunteers made brief speeches to inspire the crowd before they set out as a united front to march down Main St. to the Railroad Green.
“We can instigate change one town at a time,” said one speaker addressing the crowd as they prepared to march. “Remember that Breonna Taylor was a first responder. She was willing to devote her life to saving the lives of others, and we need to be willing to do the same.”
The event was organized through a Facebook group called the Warwick BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) Alliance which was created in the wake of the George Floyd protests earlier this year. The group was formed as a means to educate the community about local events pertaining to racial equality and social justice. Warwick resident Michelle Foster was responsible for making arrangements for the time and place of the rally, and for spreading the word to the community to attend.
As the march reached the Railroad Green, and the echoes of the people’s unified voices faded, everyone quietly gathered around the pavilion to listen to the speakers. As the crowd settled, the keynote speaker, Dr. Rev. Ann Marie Posey, was handed a microphone, and with it she captivated the audience, delivering a passionate speech about how the Breonna Taylor case reaches beyond just that one incident. Her words highlighted how this case was truly a tragic example of the issues of systemic racism and sexism in America, the consequences of which fall disproportionately on the shoulders of Black women.
“In the sanctity of a bedroom a young, Black woman lost her life,” said Dr. Posey. “And it took the death of two other young Black men in order for you to say her name,” and the crowd responded with the recitation of Breonna Taylor’s name. “Because the system was never designed for you to say her name, say her name,” she implored the audience, and they recited Breonna Taylor’s name again at the prompt. Dr. Posey finished powerfully with the words, “I am Dr. Rev. Ann Marie Bentsi-Addison Posey, and I am Breonna Taylor.”
Following Dr. Posey, Ronald Martinez, one of the organizers of the event, discussed the newly issued Executive Order No. 203, in which Gov. Andrew Cuomo requires local government in the State to adopt a police reform plan. According to the Executive Order, each community must envision for itself the appropriate role of the police. Policies must be developed to allow the police to do their jobs to protect the public and these policies must meet with the local communities’ acceptance.
Town Putting Together a Panel
As per the Executive Order, the Town of Warwick is putting together a panel of 12 residents who will address issues raised in the Executive Order as they relate to the policies and procedures of the Warwick Police Dept. Town Supervisor Michael Sweeton has been given the role of forming the panel which is tentatively scheduled to meet in October.
During the rally, Martinez requested that those in attendance email the Town Supervisor at email@example.com with inquiries about the individuals being selected for this panel, and urges that everyone demand that only those experienced and qualified to teach racial sensitivity be selected to fill these roles.
Finally, a member of 845 Unity, Middletown took the microphone to invite the audience to another march for Breonna Taylor that took place on Sat., Oct. 3 at the Middletown City Hall. 845 Unity is a group dedicated to uniting and building community in the 845 area through activism and education. Anyone interested is encouraged to get involved. They are a Middletown-based organization that can be found on Facebook. In addition, a candlelight vigil for Breonna Taylor took place at the Railroad Green in Warwick on Fri., Oct. 2.
After a few more volunteer speakers told stories of personal experience with racial injustice, Martinez once again thanked everyone for their attendance and support. He admitted he wanted to “leave everyone with a little bit of joy,” after they had spent the afternoon with heavy hearts for Breonna, and invited those still in attendance to join him for a dance as the familiar beats of the “Cha Cha Slide” began to play over the sound system.
A crowd marches down Warwick’s Main St., rallying for justice for Breonna Taylor.
Protestors carry signs while walking on Main St. in Warwick, rallying for justice for Breonna Taylor.
Protestors assemble at the Railroad Green in the Village of Warwick to listen to speakers after the march.
Dr. Rev. Ann Marie Posey delivers a powerful speech at the rally for justice for Breonna Taylor.
A group of local residents march down Main St. shouting, ‘Say her name – Breonna Taylor.’
Activists rally for justice for Breonna Taylor took place on Warwick’s Main St.