Watertown Citizens Group Discussed the Black Lives Matter Movement

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On Wednesday, Sept. 21, a group of 25 concerned residents of Watertown and Waltham attended a public meeting hosted by Watertown Citizens for Peace, Justice and the Environment at the Watertown Free Public Library, for a discussion of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement (more recently renamed Movement for Black Lives), the group announced.

The killing of black men and women by police officers, the killing of police officers, and the trials and court decisions surrounding the actions of the police are much on people’s minds.

Attendees were invited to reflect on the meaning of this movement for them, and whether or not the movement has changed their view of the police or the justice system. People described being disturbed by the shootings as well as the lack of accountability of the police departments in several cities. At the same time, Councilor Tony Palomba expressed the sentiments of many when he stated, “we are not against police; but rather, against police practices that foster racial profiling and may be motivated by systemic racism.” Caucasian participants mentioned that although this mistreatment has been going on for many years, whites have been generally ignorant of it until the recent advent of cell phone videos and social media.

Minister Mark Harris mentioned anonymous, threatening calls being left on the answering machine of Watertown’s First Parish, demanding the church remove its Black Lives Matter banner. Harris described his view of those who believe that “Black Lives Matter” should be replaced by “All Lives Matter: He commented, “Black lives matter because all lives matter; but it is black lives that have not been valued.”

Watertown resident Marilyn Richardson asked why there has been such viral reaction to the Black Lives Matter movement. The responses expressed included the long history of racism embedded in the founding of the United States, and the white majority in America feeling threatened by minorities who are of a different color or practice a different religion.

Attendees highlighted several avenues for action. These included a call for equitable hiring of people of color by police departments; for white participants to become allies by joining actions of local BLM groups; for continued promotion of non-violence training; for similar dialogue with youth; and for continuing the conversation in Watertown.  The participants stated their appreciation of Watertown Citizens for both convening and setting the tone for such an open and respectful conversation.

– Submitted by Sue-Ellen Hershman-Tcherepnin & Abby Yanow

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