BLM protests have taken place in East Lyme and neighboring towns as another way to drive change
After the death of George Floyd, East Lyme took the Black Lives Matter movement from cell phone and television screens to the town’s streets. In early June, multiple protests erupted in EL and in neighboring towns. When the opportunity presented itself, many ELHS students and staff did not hesitate to participate.
“It was one of those things where if you had the opportunity, why wouldn’t you go?” said senior Leila Bakilana-Ritz, who attended the New London and Niantic protests. “I knew this was my chance to be a part of the movement even more, and it was such a great atmosphere to experience.”
These protests consisted of hours of marching as well as listening to testimonials of many people who have experienced racial injustice.
“I was so moved by the fact that there was this massive group of people facing each other and speaking out against this issue,” said English teacher Scott Mahon, who also attended the New London protest. “It wasn’t about complaining, it was all about action.”
In the midst of a pandemic, attending protests obviously comes with health risks. However, attendees were not shy about going out and marching safely with masks.
“Of course there’s going to be a health risk with protesting, but we did our best to not touch others or their things,” said Bakilana-Ritz. “It’s hard because this isn’t the best time to be going out in that sense, but we have to take action. If we don’t do it now, then we won’t know the next time when the movement is going to take off like this.” The Black Lives Matter movement has created protests unlike other ones people have experienced in the past.
“We definitely got more negative feedback at these protests than the gun control one I went to as a freshman at the state capitol,” said senior Brooklyn Geida, who attended the Niantic protest and Bridebrook vigil. “It was a little intimidating experiencing this in East Lyme since we are a privileged and a mostly white town. I think that’s where most of the negative opinions came from. There were people driving by us and disagreeing with what we were doing.”
Despite this feedback, the community still had successful protests. Simply by participating, a visual representation displayed the numbers of people in East Lyme supporting the movement.
“It’s great to be a part of something so positive. I’ve had people texting me saying that I should be protesting in New London instead of East Lyme, but we have to start in our own community,” said sophomore Ruby McMahon, who attended the Niantic protest. “There are obviously issues here, and I think it’s great that we’re able to hold protests in our town.”
The Black Lives Matter movement still continues as the year goes on, despite the challenges of dealing with COVID-19. The fight for racial injustice is not over, and East Lyme is right there with it.
“East Lyme definitely should continue to speak out against issues, because it’s great for us to be on the right side,” said Bakilana-Ritz. “It’s good to know that the town I live in cares about these big issues.”