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JAMESTOWN – More than 200 people gathered at Jamestown’s Dow Park Sunday afternoon to protest racism, brutality and the death of George Floyd.
While bullets have been flying and buildings burning, Jamestown is standing out as different, Pastor Chloe Smith told the gathered crowd.
“Jamestown has been different. We are the difference. Our sheriff was here last week, he is here this week. Our mayor was here last week, our chief of police was here last week, and they stood with us and they stood face to face with us,” she said.
“This is just the beginning. We need the transformers,” she added. “We’re not taking our cue from other cities, we’re giving our cue to other cities.”
She went on to say that the protestors are not the nation’s enemies.
“We are not the enemy. The people are not the enemy. We are exercising our right to assemble and speak. So today we stand as one, the United States of America.”
Smith said racism “has been built into the very structure of America, but, today we’re going to tear it down.”
Floyd’s death at the hands of four police officers in Minnesota has led to protests and riots across the nation.
The crowd kneeled in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds “out of respect and solidarity with George Floyd.” The time is based on how long a police officer held his knee on Floyd’s neck.
Speaker Justin Hubbard lead the kneeling portion. He said there are certain turning points in history and this moment in time is one.
“This is our moment, this is your moment right now,” he said. He called for action, saying posting on social media and liking posts does nothing.
An example of doing something is the reinstatement of the Jamestown Human Rights Commisson, he said.
Hubbard went on to call President Donald Trump a racist, misogynist and pedophile.
Jermaine Willburn told the crowd the key to stopping racism is by loving those who don’t look like you. He cautioned the local community needs to grow.
“At the end of the day, it’s not about where you come from, or where you are, it’s about where you’re going,” he said.
Discrimination leads to hate and hate poisons the soil of the gardens we try to grow in our lives, he said.
He went on to say color doesn’t matter.
“God doesn’t see colors, he likes to paint, and he gave us all these colors.”
Chautauqua County Sheriff Jim Quattrone told the crowd that scripture teaches that God saw what he created and called it very good and that the assembly in the park is very good.
“We can’t change the beginning, but we can start a beginning,” Quattrone said.
He called for “unconditional respect.”
“We have to have unconditional respect. I often hear people say I’ll give respect when I get it, but we need unconditional respect,” he said
Participants were asked to register upon arrival and event greeters reminded participants to remain peaceful. There was also a voter registration drive and Black Lives Matter t-shirts and tank tops were being given out.
Among those meeting and talking with participants were Quattrone, Jamestown City Council President Anthony Dolce and other council members.
WNYNewsNow Multimedia Journalist Justin Gould contributed to this report.
Awesome Jamestown ny!!