Hundreds gather to say that  ‘Black Lives Matter’ in Millbrook
From left, Kathy Havards and Todd Feitelson were at the Black Lives Matter protest in Millbrook on Sunday, June 7, getting their message out to the public. Peaceful protests were held in Millbrook over the weekend. 
Photo by Judith O’Hara Balfe​

Hundreds gather to say that ‘Black Lives Matter’ in Millbrook

MILLBROOK — More than 225 peaceful protesters lined the part of Franklin Avenue that curves from the bus stop and goes along the Tribute Garden property on Sunday, June 7. This included men, women and children of all ages, mostly local residents, holding signs, wearing masks and enjoying the beautiful weather. The event, in support of Black Lives Matter (BLM), which had its existence fraught with controversy at the start, turned out to be a friendly and fruitful happening, with no trouble reported.

Although social distancing was largely non-existent, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, masks were worn and several elbow bumps took place, while others agreed, “We’ll hug later,” when it is safe to do so.

Protest signs ranged from very large to very small, and from elaborate tie-dyed signs to smaller signs done on cardboard with magic marker. What they had in common was their message: Black Lives Matter, and that people are looking for changes in the criminal justice system and of systemic racial bias. The death of George Floyd, a black Minneapolis man killed by a White ex-cop, was not taken lightly here, mirroring feelings from around the country and around the world.

The protest was put together by Larissa Nordone, a five-year resident of Millbrook who has some experience organizing protests. Nordone reports that she suffered a great deal of resistance from the town and village before the rally got off the ground.    

While many found out about the event via social media, originally it was meant to be a small gathering of roughly 50 people responding via private messaging.

Some Millbrook teenagers had planned a protest for Monday, June 8, but another teen reportedly sabotaged it. A counter protest focusing on All Lives Matter was announced, but later postponed. Those organizers asked if they could attend Sunday’s protest. 

As Sunday neared, the event grew larger and organizers worried about people coming from out of town starting trouble; organizers and officials wanted to know about permits and law enforcement. It was noted that permits are required for marches that may block traffic or pedestrian walkways, require sound amplifying devices, are especially large or cause street closures.  

Nordone was told she might be given an appearance ticket by the Village Police at the close of the event if she violated any of the village’s ordinances. That did not occur, she said, as she helped disperse attendees at the end of the event and she and friends made sure the Village Green was free of debris and garbage.

Nordone said all of her fears were put to rest on Sunday as the gathering began, grew and remained peaceful. Millbrook Police Officer Jared Witt moved easily among the crowd, greeting protesters and being greeted by those present. Although there was a “Defund the Police” sign, few signs were anti-police, though they did state the country should do better in its police practices. At least two village trustees were among the crowd, making sure it remained a peaceful event. The demonstration began at 1 p.m. and by 2 p.m. the crowd started to disburse. 

Many families attended, using the event as a teaching moment; some were multi-generational. Some of the signs the youngsters clearly made themselves, while others were more sophisticated. Many families were passionate about the cause, and it was an opportunity for some to witness first hand for the first time how America works, and why the First Amendment is so important. 

Early on, a Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office car went past, as did a New York State Trooper’s vehicle, but mostly there were cars and trucks passing by, waving and beeping their horns in support. Afterward, protesters said they felt that their message got out, that Millbrook held a peaceful protest while taking an important stance on improving the criminal justice system, the need to address racial inequality, about Black Lives Matter, about how the country must move forward, and, not to be forgotten, about the importance of caring for one another.

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