Hundreds of peaceful protestors turned out Friday afternoon at John Steinbeck Park in Sag Harbor to express solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, following the death of an African American, George Floyd, 46, in Minneapolis on May 25. Floyd died in police custody. In a video that has sparked worldwide outrage and condemnation, Derek Chauvin, a white police officer, is seen kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed, face down to the ground, allegedly causing his death.
Predominantly, the crowd in Sag Harbor was young and white. Several of the organizers of the protest had recently finished their senior years in high school. There were also young couples present, with small children holding homemade signs bearing slogans like “Black Lives Matter.”
Several speakers addressed the crowd of about 450 June 5, according to police, at John Steinbeck Park, where the protest began. Then, the crowd marched to the center of the Sag Harbor-North Haven Bridge, turned around, and marched back down to Main Street, which they paraded down twice, chanting, in call and response, slogans like, “What do we want? Justice! When do we want it? Now!” The group also briefly laid down on Main Street with their hands behind their backs — Floyd’s position while he pleaded with Chauvin.
The central question asked of participants by The Independent was, “Why is the reaction to the killing of Floyd different than all the other incidents in recent American history in which black men died while in police custody?”
A pair of white teenaged siblings, Shauna and Jared answered. Normally residents of the Upper East Side in Manhattan, the two have been living full time with their family on the East End since March, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Jared said about the killing, “I was in shock but at the same time, we have become so numb to the fact that it has been happening. I am really glad and amazed at the response that it has created. Especially on social media. There has been such an outburst of love and need for change.”
Shauna followed her brother by saying, “I think that as younger generations have grown, our generation has become of age to be able to read these resources and to spread the word through social media. It is a lot easier to tell someone or to explain to someone why this is wrong now. You can reach so many people now broadly across social media with easy access. My brother and I have been sharing stuff on Instagram every day, trying to make people aware of what is going on. To educate people. Social media has allowed us to educate people a lot more broadly.”
It’s “because of technology,” said Renee Simons, an African American businesswoman who has a house in Sag Harbor as well as a residence in Manhattan. “They never saw it before. You can’t run away after seeing somebody’s death live and televised.”
One of the organizers who addressed the crowd at the beginning of the demonstration identified herself as Ella. “I’m holding myself and every other white person here accountable for showing up after this protest. That means that you don’t go home and stick to Instagram activism.”