Greenwich Rally for Justice 6/6/20

Aidan McLeod’s letter, “Making Greenwich Uncomfortable – and Not,” gets a number of essential facts wrong and neglects to mention some key information about both Indivisible Greenwich and the Greenwich Cares: Rally for Justice attended by around 1,000 people. We write to correct the record and not that we made a tangible difference on several important fronts.

First, some background. Indivisible Greenwich is one of thousands of Indivisible groups that formed across the country after the election of President Trump. Our group is devoted – and has as its main mission – protecting our democracy from authoritarianism in light of his presidency, a threat oft-repeated by scholars such as Yale’s Timothy Snyder, and Colin Powell and others. We spend 99% of our time on federal issues, state voting issues, and federal election work to ensure Donald Trump and his enablers do not get a second term. This is not about partisanship – it’s about our democracy.

One tool that autocrats employ to seize power is the division of the body politic. We saw it first with Trump’s threat to the immigrant population. Thus, we held two rallies in front of Town Hall to decry child separation at the border and two to stand against authoritarian acts. The rallies we hold are coordinated with other groups either state- or nation-wide in order to amplify certain actions and our rallies always have a very clear purpose.

Second, after George Floyd’s death, groups across Connecticut scheduled actions. Two other Greenwich events had been held by the time we held ours – one a protest in front of the police station and one a walk by students. We purposefully planned a different event, while also being sensitive to the fact that we are in the middle of a pandemic.

The four specific purposes that we expressly stated at the event were: a) to provide a public forum for collective mourning of George Floyd and so many that have gone before him; b) to acknowledge systemic racism that some in town deny exists and note that we were in a moment that had the opportunity for real change; c) to discuss how that might occur; and d) to discuss the necessity for protecting the right to protest and protesters during this important time given the Trump administration’s recent crackdown on protests and protesters.

We specifically did not hold the rally to do many of the things that Mr. McLeod takes us to task for failing to do. Indeed, he criticizes the event

  • For its short length (there is a pandemic and it was intentional to keep it short);
  • That we did not march (also intentional to maintain social distancing; plus we factored in the expected All Lives Matter counter-protesters who we were told would show up);
  • For a speaker’s speaking error (while unfortunate, it’s human and happens to everyone);
  • Alleging we had all-white speakers save one (when in fact, we assembled a group of speakers who represent our community including one who is Latina, one who is Indian (reading from a Michelle Alexander book), two who are Jewish, one who is African American and we heard, uniformly, from black relationships that we have in the community that they felt they had marched and fought by themselves for years and it was time for other voices, especially white voices, to speak out too); and
  • We did not discuss issues pertaining to Greenwich specifically (again, that was not our purpose although we did call on town leadership to reach out to our Black community and respond with planned reforms.)

The content, as hundreds of people have told us, was meaningful and useful to virtually all the people who attended. But, Mr. McLeod, there is always room for other events with other purposes in our town. In fact, we encourage you to move forward with the event you imagine. The more events shining a light on the issue of racial justice, the better.

As for us, we actually accomplished a great deal of which Greenwich should be proud:

1) we raised thousands of dollars for protesters who are in jail to use to make bail;

2) we joined over 60 other groups holding events throughout the state of CT to send a clear message to state legislative leaders who have been dragging their feet about calling a special session that it is crucial to pass police reform legislation thereby making it more likely something meaningful could be accomplished at the state level;

3) we called upon the first selectman of Greenwich to adopt the Mayor’s Pledge that commits Greenwich leadership to review their use of force policies with members of our black community and commit to report on planned reforms, and he and the Police Chief are considering it;

4) we attracted over 1,000 people to the event focusing our Town on these important issues; and

5) scores of people have told us that they could never have envisioned anyone in Greenwich hosting such an event even 5 years ago. Whether viewed separately or together, we are comfortable that we accomplished what we set out to do.

Joanna Swomley is a member of Indivisible Greenwich and wrote this on behalf of the event organizers.

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