Large turnout protests racial injustice GM students highlight 'teaching moment' at Chester event

By Shawn Cunningham and Cynthia Prairie
© 2020 Telegraph Publishing LLC

On Saturday, more that 150 people turned out on the Chester Green to join a student-led protest against racial injustice.

Protest organizer Raevyn Stocker leads the crowd in chanting ‘no justice no peace’ All photos Chester Telegraph

Organized by students from Green Mountain High School to confront racism and police brutality in the name of George Floyd and other African-Americans who have been killed during a police encounter, the protest was vocal but peaceful and onlookers praised the commitment of Chester’s youth.

For nearly three hours students and adults carrying signs and wearing Covid-19 facemasks shouted chants of “no justice, no peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” “silence is violence” and “I can’t breathe” led by Green Mountain senior Raevyn Stocker and sophomore Lauren Greenslet.

“Lauren and I started this to bring awareness to the Chester community about the social injustices that have been brought upon the African-American community across the country,” said Stocker, adding that she and Greenslet wanted to give people a platform to speak about the issues and that the demonstration “would be as peaceful as possible.”

Related: Editorial: Why Black Lives Matter

Greenslet said she wanted to be a part of this after watching the worldwide response on social media to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police. “I hope this opens more of a conversation on how we can support people of color coming into our town and be supportive of them just like we are with one another.”

Organizer Lauren Greenslet, center, with flag kneels while holding a flag used by Molly Ferris.

“There was some push back from one merchant on the Green who was concerned about violence,” said Greenslet. “We explained that this was to be a very peaceful protest.” In addition to the chants and the loud and enthusiastic reaction from people in passing cars, each hour the protesters knelt in silence for eight minutes in memory of Floyd, whose neck was knelt on by police officer Derek Chauvin for that length of time.

During one poignant moment, a woman handed a kneeling Greenslet a rainbow flag with word PACE – Latin for peace. The flag had been one held by Chester resident Molly Ferris every Saturday morning for years during her peace protests on the Green.

Chief Rick Cloud was the lone police presence standing well back from the protest. Cloud said that it only takes one or two people to make trouble and that he was happy the day was peaceful.

Several members of the Chester Select Board were also in attendance.

“I think it’s important what they’re doing. I think it takes a lot of courage for these kids to stand out and do what they’re doing,” said board chair Arne Jonynas, ” the light is finally coming on, people are realizing what’s been happening in this country for a long time. It’s about time somebody does something about it and I guess it might take our kids to do it because we sure as hell haven’t.”

Jonynas – a former police officer – said that racially focused violence has long been tolerated and even encouraged in policing. “There’s a lot to answer for,” said Jonynas.

Saying the racism she has experienced has been more nuanced than the violence experienced by many, Maci Prescott, who grew up in Chester, told The Telegraph that it’s good to see the support from the community and that so many are willing to learn about the issues.

“This is the first time in my life I felt I could start a conversation and not be rebuffed,” said Prescott. “This is huge.”


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  1. Tom Knockenhauer says:

    Way to go guys 👏 all good in Chester strong

  2. I was so glad to see Molly’s Flag being used! In my minds eye I could see Molly standing on the corner of the green with her flag and waving hello at everyone she saw. She was such a sweet lady!!

  3. Lynn Russell says:

    I was intrigued by the reference to Molly Ferris, her peace flag and weekly demonstrations. We moved to Chester in 2013 and missed this part of Chester history. Is there more information on Molly and her weekly demonstrations?

  4. Tim Roper says:

    I’m proud to have been a part of this protest and very happy that we have young people in Chester with the focus, energy, confidence and passion to lead us. Sadly, we’re almost certainly going to have to continue protesting, nation-wide, for a long time to come if we want to see the kind of systemic change that’s needed. I’ll join again, Ms. Stocker and Ms. Greenslet; just let me know when!

  5. Randee Keith says:

    Very proud of the participants in this peaceful protest.