On December 12, a Friday evening, about 200 citizens from the Greenfield area, including 12 Deerfield students, gathered on the town square, in front of the All Souls Unitarian Universalist Church for an anti-police-violence vigil.
A few days prior to the protest, Matt Morrow ‘15 received an email from history teacher Bernie Baker informing him of the vigil. Earlier in the month, Morrow had tried to organize a bus to take students into anti-police-violence protests in New York City, but due to concerns for safety, the bus was ultimately cancelled. Because he was not able to bring students into the New York City protests, Morrow was eager to urge students to attend the Greenfield vigil.
The scene outside the church was “peaceful,” according to Morrow: “There was a good turnout; we were probably able to surround [most] of the green that you see when you first go into Greenfield.”
Dr. Baker said, “There was a mix of sadness about what has happened and a certain feeling of despair, but at the same time, the gathering helped people to be infused with a sense of possibility.” He emphasized that when we look at the history of change in the United States, “it has always happened because ordinary citizens have gotten together and said we need to move our country closer to what our founding documents say we are.”
English teacher Frank Henry also attended the vigil and recalled a woman near the church who turned to him and said, “I’ve never seen this many people on the town square for an event like this.”
Then some of the older members of the crowd remembered civil rights songs from the 1960s and began to teach them to the crowd. Mr. Henry commented, “You could just see their memories being stimulated and their sense that ‘Maybe this time it will be different.’”
According to The Greenfield Recorder’s article on the vigil—“Protesters: #BlackLivesMatter”—many citizens held signs reading, “God, help our police regain their humanity,” “Black lives matter,” and “White silence equals violence.”
Morrow said that the vigil was an excellent opportunity to demonstrate to the town of Greenfield that Deerfield students are aware of what is going on the world and that they care. “I feel like there is a stigma around the other schools that Deerfield students just don’t care about issues like this,” he said. “This was a good way to break that.”
Mr. Henry reported there was a “warm fuzzy feeling” coming away from the vigil, and Dr. Baker said he felt “satisfaction after taking a public stand,” explaining that participating in events like these makes it “easier to face [him]self in the mirror.”
Two Deerfield students, Shane Beard ’16 and Beatriz Labadan ’16 were quoted in The Greenfield Recorder while at the vigil. Mr. Henry further noted that local media, including newspapers and TV channels, gave significant coverage to the students attending. The Greenfield Recorder mentioned that the presence of Deerfield students at the vigil “reflect[ed] how many young Americans have taken to the issue.”