An upcoming vigil organized by the Greater Nashua Area Branch of the NAACP and Black Lives Matter Nashua will be a call to action in honor of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other victims of police brutality, according to Jordan Thompson, racial justice organizer for ACLU-NH and founder of Black Lives Matter Nashua, which officially launches this week.
“Any hijacking of the message that is about centering black lives and liberation is not going to be tolerated. Period,” Thompson said. He is hoping for a conversation on Saturday focusing on the national outpouring of frustration that has at times resulted in violent clashes between police and protesters.
Thompson says many peaceful protests across the country have turned violent at the hands of agitators unaffiliated with protesters. He will be watching for such outside groups on Saturday. The event is planned for 6 p.m. in Greeley Park.
(Thompson joined The Exchange to discuss the protests that have swept across the country after the death of George Floyd, as well as police-minority relations in New Hampshire. Listen to that full conversation here.)
Also watching for such groups will be Nashua police.
Nashua Police Chief Michael Carignan says he knows there is a risk for violence this weekend and is preparing for anyone coming in from elsewhere to stir up trouble.
“We have a professional police department; we have people who are well trained and we'll be prepared to respond to any acts of violence, because the people of Nashua, the business owners, the residents, they don't deserve to have their property destroyed or their city in ruins because of outsiders coming in. And I really believe people in Nashua feel connected to the police department and know we're always trying to improve the relationships.”
Thompson agrees Nashua police have been working to connect with minority communities. But the Saturday event, he says, is meant to focus also on what's been happening across the country. ”I seek to validate those frustrations,” he said. “I seek to validate that anger and try to convince people that the only way for us to have change, to make a real difference in people's lives, is to seek systemic reforms.”
Carignan said he particularly wants the black community in Nashua to know that he supports them. “I support how they're feeling. I can't claim to understand their point of view, but I can try.”
That effort – to understand and share points of view -- has been ongoing, he said, and must continue. “This conversation needs to happen over a period of time,” he said. “When you're having training dealing with cultural competency and diversity, conversations have to happen then, so you understand the background and the history of why those feelings are there.”
Thompson gives the Nashua Police Department credit for progress. “They have made considerable strides to address the very valid concerns of black and brown people in this community and for that I am grateful. But this is truly a lifelong struggle.”