GREAT BARRINGTON — The Berkshire County Branch of the NAACP is planning a demonstration for this and next Friday's varsity football home games at Monument Mountain Regional High School in Great Barrington.
The protests are planned for the playing of the National Anthem at the beginning of each game at 7 p.m., where those in attendance for the action will "take a knee."
The actions are in support of a varsity football player at the school whose protest last month was met with an alleged racist threat.
"We're calling on people to come out for a young man who had the courage to take a stand," said Dennis Powell, the branch's President. "It's the responsibility of the adults in the community to show their support."
The varsity player at the center of the demonstrations took a knee during the anthem at an away game in Athol on September 23. The following Monday, a white student allegedly threatened to "lynch" the player, a black student at the school, and "use his body for target practice."
The student accused of the threat called the allegations a "pack of lies" in a report by weekly Great Barrington paper The Berkshire Record. Neither student has been publicly identified.
Taking a knee during the anthem has become a symbol of resistance to the police killings of black men across the country. It began in August when Colin Kaepernick, a quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, refused to stand for the song. Since then, the protest has spread to colleges and high schools nationwide.
The Great Barrington Police Department and Monument Mountain school administrators launched separate investigations of the incident.
The school disciplined the accused student, although that disciplinary action was not disclosed. The police department said on Wednesday that the incident did not rise to the standard of a prosecutable hate crime. They have closed the case.
The lack of criminal prosecution isn't stopping Powell and the NAACP from coming out to show their support, nor from asking the community to show up as well.
Powell said he hopes the actions show that change is needed at the school. Education and solidarity, he said, is the key.
"We need to start the learning process so we can change the culture at Monument," he said.
Monument Principal Marianne Young told The Eagle in an email that she hoped the protest would have an impact.
"Support from adults makes all the difference in students' lives," she said. "I hope this is one of many steps that helps Monument and our community be our best selves."