Marches Keep Conversation About Injustice Going

Christine Heeren
Scenes from the June 4 march for George Floyd in Southampton.

Willie Jenkins, who helped organize the Bridgehampton march for George Floyd, said tons of reporters came up to him after the march asking: “Why did you feel like you need to come out here today?”

He said, to be polite, he answered. But in his head, he was thinking: “What do you mean? What are you talking about? Why are you asking me that?” he said prior to a march in Southampton Village Thursday night, that followed a vigil earlier in the morning at Agawam Park. “In my mind, I wanted to tell them, why don’t you go to the people that aren’t here and ask them why aren’t you there standing up for what’s right?”

Jenkins, who was working at the time, thought it was important everyone stop what they’re doing to show support.

“This is important,” he said. “Show love for everybody. Stand up. Fight for what we believe in.”

People took to megaphones before leading the group of hundreds downtown, where they laid down in the middle of Main Street with their arms behind their backs shouting “I can’t breathe” for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time a white Minnesota police officer kneeled on Floyd’s neck before the 46-year-old black man’s death.

“Just imagine, the length of time it takes. Eight minutes plus is a very, very long time,” Eric Williams, who helped organize Thursday’s march, said. “But this was beautiful. It was great. The turnout was amazing. Who would’ve thought? All colors, all races, what more could you ask for?”

The marches continue to keep the conversation going. Williams had also organized a vigil in Riverhead on May 31.

“Two weeks from now, I want everybody still posting this. Three weeks from now, I want everybody still knowing this is real,” Trevon Jenkins to the crowd. “This was real in 2012, this was real in the 1600s. We make them uncomfortable? Make them feel uncomfortable for how they feel. Let them know this makes us uncomfortable.”

Williams said he thinks more work needs to be done with youth to end racism. He thinks getting children started in sports through PAL youth leagues would help.

“You learn to work together, you learn teamwork,” he said. “Sports bring people together.”

He said he doesn’t understand the kind of behavior afflicted on Floyd.

“Why such aggression?” Williams asked. “Enough is enough. And if you stand by and watch it happen, you’re just as guilty.”

Christine Heeren contributed reporting.

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