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HARTFORD, CT — The casket bore no name. It represented all the black men and women who have died as a result of police brutality and racism.

It arrived at the state Capitol as part of a funeral procession that wound through city streets from a church in Hartford.

“We’re not supposed to be here again, and we are,” said Adrienne Cochrane, CEO of the YWCA, which helped organize the funeral.

Cochrane said the funeral is for George Floyd today, but “it represents every black man and woman who has died senselessly and unjustly. It’s the symbolism.”

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Cochrane went on to say it’s important that today means something more.

“If there is no call to action, then it’s just words,” Cochrane said.

But defeating racism is not an easy or straightforward topic when it comes to state policies since systems that have been in place for years are inherently racist.

“We have work to do,” Pastor AJ Johnson admitted. He said the “original pandemic was and still is racism.”

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Melinda Johnson, director of community engagement at the YWCA, said black women like her are standing at the state Capitol because they have “too many mothers, too many daughters, too many sons, too many friends, too many lovers lying in boxes dead when they should have been in their house taking care of their children.”

“Someone is missing their father in our community,” Johnson said.

And not to negate the gender or race of everyone who showed up to support the movement, but “Black women! Our feet are tired. Our toes are welted up. Our ankles are swollen. Because we’ve been standing for a long time.”

Speakers agreed: something has to change.

“I don’t know what it will take for some of us to change our minds about how we groom this next generation,” Johnson said. “But our children are watching right now.”

Johnson said before the coronavirus, “Racism was choking us. Racism was keeping us silent. Racism was holding us down. Racism has left us gasping for our very last breath and now with whatever breath you hold in your body you have a responsibility to do better.”

Brittney Yancy of CT Black Woman and the United State of Women, asked the crowd to imagine what would happen if they showed up in these numbers during a debate on a police accountability bill.

“So I know we can win this fight,” Yancy said.

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Hartford Councilwoman Wildaliz Bermudez said no one has to look far to see the problem. She said over-policing is happening in Hartford every single day. She detailed the increases in the city budget for the police and the detention center. She called for a demilitarization of police departments across Connecticut.

Rev. John Selders said every mayor and elected official should be careful because, “we coming for you.”

Selders said for too long, they’ve allowed these lawmakers and mayors to “legislate our lives and our agenda and you’ve not done it correctly.”

Denise Best of Voices of Women of Color, said they are holding actions now to make sure the “protests of today become the policies of tomorrow.”

Sen. Doug McCrory, D-Hartford, said he’s disappointed he had to be at the action Wednesday and talk about how what happened to George Floyd in Minneapolis makes him feel.

“What we saw in the murder of our brother was the continuation of the devaluing of black lives since this country has been formed,” McCrory said.

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He said black people are not shocked by what happened. “Racism and white supremacy are not new to us,” he said. McCrory went on to assert that young people have the right to be angry and upset “because we have systems in place that need to be disrupted.”

He thanked the police officers for being there and reminded the crowd that they aren’t the problem.

Police officers, some back and some white, stood in a line in the distance. They all took a knee when asked by Pastor AJ Johnson if they agree in justice and freedom for all. 

“It’s the system that’s in place. The concept of policing. It’s the bad apples that need to be weeded out,” McCrory said. “So we’re going to put legislation in place that makes sure this doesn’t happen in Connecticut, but you know it already has.”

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He said they’re going to have to have some uncomfortable conversations. McCrory said the white people in power are going to have to start inviting some “black folks who don’t agree with you to the table.”

He said the time for compromise is over, because compromising led to where they are today. However, the senator warned against violence.

“We cannot win this by burning down our own communities,” McCrory stated. “We cannot win this fight by picking up arms and shooting people. We are outnumbered and outgunned so that’s not going to happen. The other option is the ballot.”

Posted by Christine Stuart on Wednesday, June 3, 2020