Six Stamford protestors are getting the book thrown at them for standing up to police brutality. People came from all over the state to speak out, show their support, and demand the charges against them be dropped.
By Mick Theebs
Despite the dreary and unseasonably cold weather on Saturday, May 8th, activists from across the state, organized by the Stamford Mass Defense Coalition, gathered in front of Stamford Government Center to demand city officials drop the charges leveled against protestors arrested last summer.
On August 8, 2020, at a protest against police brutality and for police accountability in the death of Steven Barrier – a Black man who died in police custody – five protestors and one unwitting bystander were arrested under a slew of charges, ranging from misdemeanor breach of peace to inciting a riot, which is a felony. Activists gathered to protest these charges and raise awareness for the draconian crackdown on the public’s First Amendment right to free assembly, both in Connecticut and across the country. As of this writing, 34 state legislatures have introduced some form of anti-protest bill in direct response to the mass wave of protests that occurred over the summer of 2020.
Roughly three dozen protestors assembled on the front steps of Stamford Town Hall with picket signs and banners, as cars sped by the busy corner of Washington and Tresser Boulevard. Some drivers, displeased with the protestors’ demands, jeered from their cars as they drove by. Many more sounded their support for justice and accountability, as others blasted their horns and raised their fists from their windows.
A host of speakers took to the mic, from a diverse gathering of organizations including the Stamford Mass Defense Coalition, Justice for Steven Barrier, the National Lawyers Guild of Connecticut, Connecticut Workers Crisis Response, Connecticut Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Socialist Resurgence, the Democratic Socialists of America (both Western and Central Connecticut chapters), and Justice for Brunch. Though the speakers’ primary focus was on the recent, flagrant attacks on people’s right to assemble, they also touched on neighboring issues, such as the police’s continued terrorization of communities of color, dismantling white supremacy, gentrification, colonization, and solidarity with our brothers, sisters, and kin struggling for freedom in Colombia and Palestine. Some protestors also spoke about their experiences with government representatives attempting to intimidate activists into ending protests.
Though much of the subject matter was serious, the protest had a festive air. At one point, one of the speakers revealed that it was their birthday, and the assembled group sang them Happy Birthday. Protestors stood on construction barriers with their signs, and the crowd cheered every time a driver honked their horn in support.
As the rally progressed, a petition demanding that the charges against these six individuals be dropped was circulated. The Stamford Mass Defense Coalition has collected just under two thousand signatures as of this writing in early May. If you wish to add your name in defense of protesters’ First Amendment rights and to stand up to police intimidation, you can access the online version of the petition here.