People Call For Demilitarization Of Springfield, Mass

SPRINGFIELD — “Disarm the police! No justice, no peace!” protestors shouted at passing cars Thursday evening on the corner of State Street and Walnut Street.

Cars, buses and even a police cruiser honked in support of the 75 protestors, who held signs showing solidarity with Ferguson, Missouri, protestors outside of the Arise for Social Justice offices.

The protest focused on police militarization, misconduct and racial profiling issues. Protestors read poetry, gave speeches and led songs with a microphone hooked up to a loudspeaker on the corner.

One organizer said that at a similar rally, a man came up to him and said police misconduct issues might be important in Ferguson, but don’t exist in Springfield.

“If you or someone you know has been the victim of police violence or misconduct in the last year, raise your hand,” he called into the microphone.

At least two dozen hands went up in the crowd.

Kwamel Joselyn got on the microphone to say that young people of color shouldn’t be afraid to walk down the street. They shouldn’t feel that they are targets.

Joselyn said some officers profile young people of color, like him. Police have stopped him many times as he walked down the street, doing nothing suspicious.

“Yes, I do take that personally,” he said.

Arise organizer Frank Cincotta said two immediate, important steps police can take to improve their community relationships are to reform the use of force policy and install cameras in cruisers.

Cincotta said interested community members should attend the Arise Injustice Liberation Front committee meeting at 5 p.m. on Sept. 15 at the Arise offices to learn about their ongoing projects.

Judith Feinstein, of the Undoing Racism Organizing Collective, said the protest helps visualize the issue, so officials know that citizens are united against misconduct and will not be passive.

The collective is offering a workshop called “Undoing Racism” in September to discuss national race relations.

“I can’t say too much against the police,” said one protestor who didn’t want to give his name.

He knows some police officers, grew up side by side with them, and didn’t want to seem like he was attacking them individually. He said he supports the issue, but that doesn’t make him anti-police.

“They’re not all bad,” he said. “It’s not every officer. Not everyone’s a bad person.”