Another Black Lives Matter rally, this one held to emphasize the role of black women in the community, drew a large crowd to the Commons on Friday afternoon.?
The event, officially termed the "Uplift and Speak Out - Women Speak Out for Racial Justice" rally, was organized by Black Lives Matter - Ithaca. Like other protests this week, the crowd filled the alley in front of Bernie Milton Pavilion, with signs and chants much like the others that have been held this week, all in response to the national outrage over George Floyd's killing by Minneapolis police and decades of racist police violence aimed at black people.?
The mantra of this specific event seemed to be one of unity between black men and women, as well as a reiteration of the week's calls for white people to actively support the push for change, in policing and systemic racism in general. Prominent local activist Phoebe Brown introduced the event, emphasizing the need for remaining involved instead of holding one-off protests.?
"We don't want you to just come out today then go back home," Brown said. "We want you to embody this movement. When you are in spaces, and you don't see people like us, question them. We want you to continue to support us and what we do. We know best. We've been doing this for over 400 years."
Brown invited a group of black women to the stage, each of whom took a turn speaking to the crowd. Crystal Van Patten, speaking as one of the women invited on stage, perhaps most succinctly summed up the meaning of Friday's rally.?
"Ain't nobody madder than a f*cking mother," Van Patten said to end her speech.?
Another early highlight was a dance performance by Ms. Harmony, a dance teacher who works at the Greater Ithaca Activities Center, who led two other women in an emotional routine set to "Strange Fruit." She was followed by another speaker who led the gathered crowd in a chant of "I'm tired" and implored the crowd that black people don't deserve the consistent punishment they've faced from police considering their contribution to the country.?
Nicole LaFave, representing Black Lives Matter-Ithaca, delivered her own comments followed by a pre-written statement from the organization, championing a restructuring of the overall system, specifically mentioning capitalism as a oppressive structure, and rejecting respectability politics as a way forward.?
There was also an observance of an 8 minute, 46 second moment of silence with local medical workers who came to the protest at 1 p.m. The time represents the amount of time Derek Chauvin spent with his knee on George Floyd's neck, killing him. It's a very long time.?
Denise Malone and her son Cadji Ferguson both made an appearance according to the Ithaca Voice. Ferguson was the subject of police violence last year in an incident on the Commons that involved he and Rose DeGroat being slammed to the ground and arrested by police. Ferguson was found not guilty of his charges associated with the incident.?
After nearly two hours of speeches, the protesters took to the streets, marching up Seneca Street, down Green Street all the way to Plain Street and back to the Commons. Then, after a few minute break, the group caught its breath and made a similar trek.?
While the march didn't seem to have a specific route, police were generally able to block off streets and keep traffic at bay. Drivers delayed by marchers were generally supportive with honks or fists held aloft in solidarity. The event was only marred by a brief altercation involving the infamous Commons Magic Man, who was answering the crowd's chants as they passed with "All lives matter" responses.?