December 1, 2021

Group plans to demonstrate for BLM every Tuesday

Travis Dunn/staff reporter

Protesters gather at noon Tuesday in support of Black Lives Matter outside Grace and Holy Spirit Church at 13 Court St. in Cortland. It was at least the fourth protest of racism and police abuse since George Floyd died May 25 in Minneapolis when a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly 9 minutes.

As demonstrations against police brutality continue across the country, 30 people gathered at noon Tuesday outside Grace and Holy Spirit Church at 13 Court St. in Cortland to protest in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

This is the second week the church has hosted a Tuesday noontime protest, and the Rev. Pete Williams, the church’s pastor, said the church will continue to host the events weekly for the foreseeable future.

“This is really important. If you go to a rally just once, that’s great, but you might forget that we’ve got to keep working on this in our country,” he said.

Wiliams said he was especially encouraged by a protest and march Saturday in Homer on Saturday that drew more than 100 people. For a rural, mostly white county, that was an impressive turnout, he said.

“That gives me hope,” he said. “Our country is changing, and we want to keep this going to remind people that this has to be in the forefront of our minds, because if we just take it for granted, we might drift back into not caring enough.”

The protesters Tuesday marched around the block with “Black Lives Matter” signs before gathering again outside the church and signing “This Land Is Your Land” and “We Shall Overcome” before being addressed by several speakers, including Reed Cleland and Caleb Wright, who have helped organize other recent protests.

“It’s OK to admit that you were wrong in the past,” Wright said. “It’s OK to change your political views, your biases and your opinions. You’re not stuck with the values that you were raised with. …The more that you educate yourself, it’s your job, it’s my job and it’s our job to make sure that everyone knows that black lives matter and why it matters and what it means when you say it.”

In response to a question about what people can do to support the protest movement, Wright said people should educate themselves and “go to as many protests and rallies as you can.”

Williams said the protests reminded him of the political activism of the late 1960s, yet more multigenerational than the protests of that era.

While Tuesday’s protest drew mainly older white people, the group also included a toddler and several people in their 20s.

“This is my church, and I feel very strongly about this,” said parishioner Rosemary Vail of Homer. “This is our mission. This is our stand.”