Pittsfield march planned to protest recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson, New York City

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PITTSFIELD >> Outrage over recent grand jury decisions in Ferguson, Mo., and in New York City has reached Pittsfield, where dozens of protesters are planning to hold a peaceful march on Sunday afternoon.

The march, organized by the local NAACP, churches and other service organizations, will begin at 3 p.m. in Pitt Park and continue to the Pittsfield Common.

Will Singleton, president of the Berkshire County chapter of the NAACP, emphasized that it would be a peaceful march.

But, he said, the local African-American community is "disgusted" with recent national events.

Last week, a grand jury failed to indict former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the August shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, igniting a night of violence in that Missouri town that left several local businesses in smoldering ruins.

On Wednesday, a grand jury in Staten Island, N.Y., similarly failed to indict a New York City officer, Daniel Pantaleo, in the death of another unarmed young black man, Eric Garner, whom he had placed in choke hold. A coroner ruled Garner's death a homicide. That decision also sparked anger, but demonstration in New York City and elsewhere so far have been peaceful.

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Singleton also cited the recent shooting of 12-year-old Tamir Rice, who was shot dead by police in Cleveland while brandishing a toy gun.

"This has got to stop," he said. "Whether they are 10 years old or 50, black men matter. How much more can we take?"

He also emphasized that the march is not intended as a criticism of local law enforcement.

"Let me make that clear," he said. "This is not an indictment of our local police. But we have to start addressing the issue of race. I understand that when someone mentions the word 'race,' people start to run the other way. It's an uncomfortable topic for a lot of folks. But we have to be more forthcoming about it."

A Facebook page, Berkshires March for Justice and Humanity, has been set up to provide more information. About 63 people have already signed up to participate as of 5 p.m. Thursday.

Singleton acknowledged that the march was organized on short notice, "but we're hoping for on a good turnout," he said. "It's going to be cold Sunday, but it's the Berkshires in December, so that's not surprising."

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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