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‘The System Needs to Go:’ N.H. Black Lives Matter Activists Call Out Police, Elected Officials

Several hundred people gathered in Concord Friday evening in a peaceful protest to honor Breonna Taylor, the woman shot to death by police officers in her Louisville, Kentucky home last spring. The gathering on the steps of the New Hampshire Supreme Court, organized by local chapters of Black Lives Matter, was treated as both a call to action and a solemn vigil.  

“People don’t care about Black women until they’re dead,” organizer Erika Perez said through sobs. “People don’t care about Black women until they can put them on the cover of a magazine or put their name on a shirt or make a graphic about it.”

Credit Sarah Gibson for NHPR
A small group of Black Lives Matter activists in their early 20's from Manchester and Nashua have organized the state's largest racial justice protests in memory.

Perez has been organizing with Black Lives Matter Manchester since George Floyd’s killing in May.

“Even in these protests in New Hampshire, I’ve noticed that no one said Breonna Taylor’s name as loud as they said 'George Floyd,' ” she said. “I really feel the disrespect for her.”

Friday's protest came two days after agrand jury decided not to indict two of the officers involved in Taylor's shooting, sparking protests across the country and continued unrest in Louisville, where two police officers were shot after news of the grand jury decision.

The Concord event was more hastily planned than the chapters’ other gatherings this summer, but some supporters said they were disappointed by the dwindling number of community members and elected officials showing up.

“I think the less it is on social media, the less people are actually coming out, and the less of a trend it is,” said Irene Denyou, of Nashua.

Jordan Thompson, an organizer with Black Lives Matter Nashua, said he wasn’t aware of any elected officials at the protest, a change from this summer, when Democrats and Gov. Chris Sununu praised the group and its cause.

“It’s a slap in the face,” he told NHPR.

Black Lives Matter haveissued demands to political candidates in the primary and general election that include an end to qualified immunity for police officers and a ban on the use of tear gas.

And they say neither Republicans nor Democrats take their concerns seriously enough.

“This is an issue that transcends party lines,” Jordan told the crowd of mostly young people Friday. “There are elected officials in the Democratic party who are beholden to law enforcement, that are afraid of real change.”

Credit c/o Clifton West on Twitter
Black Lives Matter leaders, including Clifton West, handed out bracelets with the slogan of their new campaign "N.H. is not innocent."

Speakers urged attendees to vote in November but warned that change would not come from electoral politics alone.

Julian Maduro, of the newly formed Black Lives Matter Seacoast, said that the criminal justice system’s handling of Breonna Taylor’s death proved that it was beyond reform.

“If a system is in place that doesn't value all lives equally, that doesn't protect all lives equally, that doesn't fight for all lives equally, that lets someone get away with murder because of a badge, the system needs to go,” she said to loud applause.

The group marched from the New Hampshire Supreme Court down the heavily trafficked Loudon Road to Keach Park. Black Lives Matter organizers said they the did not coordinate with Concord police, but officers on bikes and in patrol cars stopped traffic to accommodate the march.

A group of volunteers and trained medics worked with Black Lives Matter to help escort the crowd and serve as what they called “peacekeepers.”

Once they arrived at Keach Park, Samantha Searles of Black Lives Matter Nashua took the loudspeaker and urged the attendees to challenge racism in their daily lives and their families.

“We've got to start talking about this more,” she said. “When we say New Hampshire is not innocent; we're talking about generations of people who have turned a blind eye to issues of people living here.”

Sarah Gibson joined NHPR's newsroom in 2018. She reports on education and demographics.
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