NORTH ADAMS — Over 50 protesters gathered with renewed fervor to reiterate that "Black lives matter" as they marched through the streets of North Adams on Sunday afternoon.
Two episodes from the past week lent the march a new sense of urgency: inflammatory comments about the Black Lives Matter movement made on Tuesday by School Committee and City Council member Robert Moulton, Jr., and a reported effort of intimidation on Saturday against one of the movement's local leaders, Raymond Moore.
"My kids should feel safe walking the street, and my kids don't, because of the color of their skin," Moore said. "Just because I'm dark, and my kids are dark, they have fear."
Moore organized several marches over the past month and has emerged as the movement's loudest voice in North Adams.
Sunday's march came in the wake of Moulton's TV appearance on Tuesday evening, during which the city councilor and school committee member called BLM a "terrorist organization." Moore has called for Moulton to "face the consequences" of the statements he made.
"What he said was awful," Moore said. "It was disrespectful to this community, to this town, to these people."
The march was further galvanized by events on Saturday night, when North Adams police were called to Moore's neighborhood to investigate reports of gunshots. Police Chief Jason Wood could not confirm that shots were fired, but Moore said that he believes he was being targeted. He said that earlier that night, he was followed through North Adams by two trucks.
"If they can try to silence me, attack my home they can do it to any one of us here," he said. "We have to let them know, as a community, that what happened was uncalled for. It's wrong, and we're not going to allow it."
The march began at Bracewell Park, where a billboard stands proclaiming, "BLACK LIVES MATTER." A crowd that included Mayor Thomas Bernard and City Councilor Keith Bona gathered to hear from Moore and co-organizer Crystallena Frost.
Concerns had arisen over counterprotesters engaging with the crowd; Moulton's nephew Tom Denault posted about the march on Facebook, writing, "Maybe it's time our side protests against these terrorists."
The North Adams Police Department tasked several officers with accompanying the protesters in order to clear roads and to deescalate any potential conflict.
At 2:50 p.m., a man walking on Marshall Street shouted "all lives matter" at the crowd in Bracewell Park and began arguing with Moore. Officer Sakan Sadowsky asked the man to continue walking. After a few minutes speaking to Sadowsky, the man left. No other incidences of counterprotest occurred.
The protesters departed Bracewell Park around 3:15 p.m., following a route that looped them through Moore's neighborhood by way of Tyler, North and Houghton streets. They crossed over the Hoosic River on Marshall Street before marching through town on Main and E. Main Streets. To finish, they reached Mohawk Trial via Murray Avenue and finished at Mohawk Forest.
Moore thanked the police for their help and those gathered for their commitment to "take back" North Adams. He said that no matter what opposition he receives, he will continue to organize demonstrations to condemn racism.
"We're going to walk with dignity. We're going to walk with self-respect, something they don't have," he said. "And we're going to do it with a smile."