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'N.H. Is Not Innocent': In Concord, Students Lead March Against Racial Injustice

High school students and others gathered in Concord Saturday to march in support of Black Lives Matter and to honor the memory of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and other black Americans killed by police.

The event was organized by students at Concord High School and the organization Change for Concord, a group of diverse young adults working to improve quality of life for young people in the city.

Credit Christina Phillips / NHPR
Activists put a "not innocent" sign on the Daniel Webster statue at the N.H. State House.

The protesters gathered at Memorial Field in Concord early Saturday afternoon and marched to the Concord State House, a distance of about 1.6 miles. They chanted phrases like “No Justice, No Peace,” “I Can’t Breathe,” and “Black Lives Matter.” Concord police estimated there were at least 1,000 people in the crowd.

At the State House, organizers led a program including singing, speeches, and spoken word.

16-year-old Madeline Swenson sang an acapella rendition of the song Rise Up by Andra Day. 

Next, Moorehouse College Junior Samuel Alicea read the names of black men and women who have lost their lives to police violence, with a 12-second moment of silence between each name.

Other students and members of Change for Concord gave speeches.

Madeline Swenson spoke about her experiences with racial profiling at school, and the fear she has of being targeted by police.

"My own parents are scared for me to get my license because they don’t want me to get pulled over for an unknown reason and get shot because I’m pulling out my license and my registration,” she said. “I’m 16 and my two parents had to sit down and tell me and ask me ‘what are you going to do when a cop pulls you over?’ I’m only 16. That is not ok."

Credit Christina Phillips/NHPR
Concord High School Junior Emmi Sarours delivers a speech at the New Hampshire State House in Concord.

Keisha Johnson shared her experience of growing up black in New Hampshire.

“I’ve lived in New Hampshire my entire life. I was born here and I’ve grown up loving the culture. And I have been part of a very loving and accepting community. I had the luxury to grow up feeling safe. But that feeling has left me.”

Rose Fornor spoke about her brother, who has disabilities, and an encounter he had with local police.

“There was this little girl playing outside with her friends. He walked over to her to tap her to just play basketball with him because that’s the sport he loves to play,” she said. “The [girl’s] mother had the audacity to call the police on my brother who doesn’t know how to communicate with people, saying he was sexually harassing her. The police person came and took my brother violently to jail for one month and three weeks.”

Fornor said her mother had to “fight and fight” to find a lawyer to get her brother out of jail.

Credit Christina Phillips/NHPR
Counter-protesters join the march for Black Lives on Main Street in Concord.

“So what is going on right now concerns me because every time my brother walks those streets, plays at the park, I can’t tell if something’s going to happen to him. That’s why we all here need to have our voices heard.”

During the demonstrations, a small group of armed counter-protesters stood nearby on Main Street.

When the speeches concluded,  some demonstrators went over to talk with the counter-protesters. Some members of that group ended up joining the demonstrators and continuing the conversation as they marched back to Memorial Field.

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