'Make the change': Hundreds protest in the Berkshires over death of George Floyd

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NORTH ADAMS — On a day when protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd spread around the globe, local citizens raised their voices here as well as in Pittsfield.

Sunday afternoon's protest in North Adams drew more than 300 people to the lawn outside City Hall, where they gathered with signs and chanted together to an ongoing supportive chorus of honking horns from cars passing by.

"It's a sad day," Dennis Powell, president of the Berkshire County chapter of the NAACP, said to the crowd. "We continue to repeat the same words. We continue to come together for the same cause. The message still hasn't been received. We need to use our voices. We need to force the issue. We need to make the change."

He spoke through a megaphone, with a sign hanging from his neck that listed the names of 100 unarmed African-Americans who died at the hands of police. The last name of the list: George Floyd.

"Until we change policy, nothing else is going to change," Powell said.

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North Adams Mayor Thomas Bernard made a few comments, and state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield, and Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington also offered words of support.

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Throughout the demonstration, chants in support of Black Lives Matter — such as "No justice, no peace" — rang out over the sound of traffic and horns honking. After a few hours of chanting through intermittent bouts of light rain, the protest peacefully broke up.

The 1 p.m. protest in Pittsfield didn't end quite so calmly due to a brief skirmish.

At Park Square, where a similar protest had been going on since 1 p.m., more than 200 people gathered for a second day of demonstration. They marched to the police station and back to Park Square. They also heard words of support from Powell and Hinds.

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But just before 5 p.m., when most had left and there were only about five protesters left standing with signs, an SUV pulled up to the protesters and the driver started shouting about how many white people get killed by the police.

According to protester Amillie Coster, who witnessed the encounter, one of the protesters went to the driver's window and had words with the man, who then head-butted the protester in the nose and drove off quickly, nearly running into the injured protester.

"Up until that, the spirit of the protest was beautiful," Coster said. "It felt good after a week of sadness."

Scott Stafford can be reached at sstafford@berkshireeagle.com or 413-629-4517.


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