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Peaceful Norwalk protest makes an impression

A Black Lives Matter protest begins Sunday on Connecticut Avenue. (James Russell)

Updated: 9:46 p.m.:Video added, Chief Kulhawik interview.

NORWALK, Conn. — Hundreds of people gathered Sunday in Norwalk for a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest.

The throng shut down northbound Interstate 95 briefly while they walked from the Connecticut Avenue Stop & Shop to Norwalk Police headquarters in South Norwalk. Connecticut Avenue was also closed, as were streets in SoNo.

Video by Harold F. Cobin at end of story

A Norwalk woman demonstrates Sunday. (John Levin)

Norwalk Common Council member Kadeem Roberts (D-District A) was among those with a bullhorn at police headquarters.

“I spoke to the entire community to let them know that I am hurt and I too see what is going on within the world and especially what had occurred to George Floyd in Minnesota. I expressed that the color of my skin should not determine the outcome if I live or if I die,” he said in an email.

Andrea Rojas of Norwalk. (John Levin)

Floyd, 46, died a week ago in Minneapolis. A video of him crying, “I can’t breathe” while a white police officer kneeled on his neck has gone viral and prompted protests nationwide. The officer was fired and subsequently arrested, charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers were also fired.

Protestors nationwide also cite the deaths of EMT Breonna Taylor in her own Kentucky home and jogger Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia. Adding to tensions are the stories of a black birdwatcher in New York City and CNN journalist Omar Jimenez being demeaned.

While demonstrations in other areas have turned violent, Norwalk’s protest was peaceful, multiple participants say.

“Numerous people thanked me for how our officers handled things,” Police Chief Thomas Kulhawik said. “I walked through the crowd and spoke to many people and they were all very supportive but asked questions on our policies etc.  Went very well.  I enjoyed speaking with everyone.”

Roberts said he didn’t see any counter protestors and “everyone was there for the one cause.”

“There were people from all over, Bridgeport, Wilton, Stamford,” Jim Russell of Ridgefield said. “My guess is between 500 and 1,000.”

The crowd kept getting bigger and when they started walking down the I-95 ramp, “I thought, OK this is it,” Russell said. “We had six dozen riot police officers. I thought, ‘Oh, they’ll stop us.’ No, they were actually there to provide for our safety and they did a wonderful job.”

“The protesters entered the highway.  We tried to protect them from traffic as they marched and walked towards our headquarters,” Kulhawik said.

I-95 was closed for about 20 minutes, Russell estimated. Mayor Harry Rilling joined the march and everyone had their Constitutional right to speak, Russell said.

“I believe we should all be treated equally and right now in the world we are not,” Roberts wrote in an email. “There are many African Americans within the world who have or are facing police brutality and are being murder in the act of law enforcement. We need many of those in law enforcement to be retrained and held accountable. We should not as African Americans nervous or afraid of those we believe are here to protect and serve our community!”

At Norwalk Police headquarters. (Contributed)

It happens in Norwalk, Roberts said.

“I asked everyone in the crowd at the end of the protest to count to 3 and scream the individuals name who had lost their life to police brutality and we ended with a moment of Silence! This was a statement to the community, that we Norwalk Citizens can come together and participate in a peaceful protest but march together in solidarity in a fight for justice with everyone Black, white, latino, and all races,” Roberts said. “I am so proud of Norwalk and TODAY WE STOOD FOR EVERYTHING! I’m grateful for the entire city that came out in full support! #NORWALKSTRONG”

National news coverage has focused on a the “teeny weeny” portion of people who have been violent during the protests but there were families out in Norwalk, mothers with babies in carriages and a father with his daughter on his shoulders, Russell said.

“This whole day has really made me think about white privilege and how it’s destroying this country,” Russell said. “And I’m in the middle of it. I want to start the discussion with my Monday men’s group to talk about it. What can we do?”

The week has been a wake-up call, he said. “This is going on over and over and over. I was in six different places today, a lot of white people are saying this is enough. We don’t want our society to be what our police officer believed it to be, as he kneeled down and kills a person.”

“I thought the protest was very POWERFUL and it was touching to see so many people show up to protest injustice,” Chevel Barret of Norwalk said in an email. “The Norwalk protest along with the others across this country and the world really proves that people are paying attention and are just as willing to give to a cause greater than themselves. I am very hopeful that change will happen and someday will be proud to say I played a small yet instrumental role in that.”

 

(John Levin)

 

 

Jalin Sead speaks at Norwalk Police headquarters. (Contributed)
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John Levin exits I-95. “I thanked the 1/2 dozen (riot gear/helmetted) Norwalk police officers for their professionalism, and I told them that I have lived in Norwalk for 29 years and I’m a property tax payer and I think they were doing a great job!” he wrote. “I also remarked ‘and dude, I’ve never walked on I-95 before!’ and one cop said ‘yeah, neither have I!!’” (Jim Russell)
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(John Levin)
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(Harold Cobin)

Comments

23 responses to “Peaceful Norwalk protest makes an impression”

  1. Banks

    Spike’s film, hard to watch shows the awfulness of police brutality:

    https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=SBo9hBtGmHA

    There may be 1% or 5% of bad apples in police uniforms, but it’s also systematic and the vast majority of police officers serve with dignity and respect. Police Unions, investigators, prosecutors and jurors all play a role in enabling the US to reach this point.

    The destruction nationwide is self-destructive. Society pay’s for cleaning up vandalism, destruction of cop cars and looting. Ironically, police earn more overtime the longer protestors carry on with these types of protests.

    Stay peaceful Norwalk, seeing the National Guard in over a dozen cities is surreal.

  2. 5ive

    Thanks for covering this. It was a very positive day.

  3. Bryan Meek

    The need to show support for a wrongful act is more than understood. But, it’s peaceful just because no on is throwing bricks or bombs like they are a few miles away?

    What happened to the Governor’s executive order limiting gatherings to 25?

    Blocking an interstate highway is without permit, warning, or notice is illegal and not a peaceful act? What if there was an emergency? What if an ambulance needed passage? The Mayor and everyone involved in the decision to allow this to block the highway, unnecessarily needs to resign immediately and turn themselves in to the state police for violating the Governor’s executive orders.

    That or a full blown apology needs to be given to the Dry Dock owner, who should be suing the pants off of the city right now for what they did to him.

  4. Karen

    As I view the the pictures of the awesomely peaceful protest movement, I’m so proud of my hometown # Norwalk unity! Love you Norwalk # Black Woman Proud… I have tears in my eyes, yet I have faith that “all things will work together for good… Lead by example Norwalk!!

  5. John ONeill

    One might argue that there are infinitely more African American children killed by Planned Parent hood than any police force. Last year there were more African American babies aborted in New York City than were actually born. Just think about that for a second…
    That being said, there’s no place for police abusing their power.
    I look forward to BLM marching against abortion, assuming they consider fetuses of color worth saving.

  6. Ron Morris

    Do these cops with the riot helmets not realize that they are part of the problem? Surprised that they are not wearing camo. What ever happened to cops wearing a shirt and tie and looking non-threatening?
    Let us not forget that Norwalk has had more than their share of police abuse cases.

  7. Ron Morris

    One more point a lot of these racial issues stem from the behavior of the racist in the white house

  8. Science

    @Bryan Meek where’s your anger towards the cop that murdered George Floyd? “wrongful act”…that’s putting it lightly

    Instead you’re mad because people were allowed to protest. what a joke.

  9. carol

    proud of Norwalk and the way the protesters marched.

  10. Dana Pevsner

    Beautiful protest! Freedom of speech and assembly are constitutional, and all the people marching and speaking out are doing their civic duty!
    Thank you for the excellent coverage, NancyOnNorwalk!

  11. John ONeill

    Ronald: The 99.9% of police officers who are terrific sometimes need extra protection while being pelted with rocks, molotov cocktails etc. I’m sure you’d feel the same way if you were in their shoes, even though those throwing projectiles might feel slighted. Will you agree that many more children of color are killed in Planned Parenthood centers? Are you the slightest bit shocked at the ratio or aborted babies:to newborns in cities like New York and Washington DC? I’ll march hand in hand with you with BLM to protest this atrocity..Are you with me?

  12. Bryan Meek

    Ron should feel good there were only 6 officers here to keep the peace given the mayhem going on 30 miles from here. Curious they thought fewer officers were needed for this than at the Dry Dock. Curious also is Bob Duff didn’t ask anyone to sign any DNR cards like he did others wanted to exercise a peaceful protest for the lockdown. Interesting Duff isn’t mentioned here because like everything else good, he’s taking credit for this. At least we know it is now ok to defy any of the Governor’s orders we don’t feel like following and gathering in huge crowds. Open schools, open the economy, have graduations, get the picnic tables out of the parking lots. Live life without the fear that Bob is going to turn you into the police, unless that is he thinks himself above the law.

  13. John ONeill

    Ron: To be clear, I am in no way downplaying the abuse and murder of George Floyd and other by rogue evil ignorant police officers. I am merely pointing out what many are not aware of because abortion statistics are something progressives prefer not to discuss publicly. AND the minority community is affected in a major way.

  14. Kelly Robertson

    I was part of the protest yesterday. It is sad that we had to protest, but the group was in solidarity and it was a community experience. I wanted to thank the police officers that drove the cars, cleared the traffic, walked along side of us and made sure order was kept at the Police Station. Thank You! I also want to thank the business and the police officer that handed out water along the way. That was such an act of kindness and a great way to show your support. Thanks to the organizers. You did a good job! Finally,Thank you to the community of Norwalk that came out and shared your voice.

  15. Steve Mann

    Once again, high praise for Nancy to allow so many divergent opinions here on NON. One tip for posters though, if you’re coming on site to post your bias, hatred and mistruths, your message will be much more effective if you manage to do it in one post.

  16. Denise DeMarsh

    I don’t live in Norwalk, or CT anymore, but I’m VERY proud of my hometown. Everyone.

  17. Ron Morris

    John
    This article is not about abortion so please do not attempt to muddy the water with that off topic conversation.
    Bryan Meek
    What is it with the Republicans that they refuse to accept science. You people seem to feel that the virus was a hoax, like the puppet master the liar and chief in the White House would have you believe. The police were 100 percent correct for arresting the owner of the Dry Dock. He violated an executive order.

  18. Andrew

    Credit to whoever the photographer that captured the cop in riot gear smiling alongside the gentleman with a bicycle. That is a 1000 word picture and has been stuck in my mind since I saw it this morning.

  19. John Levin

    Hi Andrew – thanks! I took that picture. I sent a bunch of photos to Nancy last night and I’m sure she struggled under the deluge. Nancy Chapman is writer, editor, reporter, publisher, business manager and makes the whole thing happen – no big deal if every photo isn’t credited just right. But as a former photographer (back in the days of something called “film”), I appreciate your comment.

  20. Donny O’Day

    What happened to the owner of Dry Dock?

  21. Joe

    I think it was dangerous and thoughtless for the mayor and the police chief to allow pedestrians to walk in the middle of our post road and interstate highway.

    Just think of driving with your family and all of a sudden finding you and your kids trapped in your car in the middle of a thoroughfare surrounded by hundreds of pissed off people.

    And what if you had a medical emergency? The mayor and police chief are condoning lawlessness.

    It’s frightening. I hope this mayor is fired quick. He puts democrat politics before public safety.

  22. Harold Cobin

    Donny O’Day — The owner of the Dry Dock Bar & Grille, Donald Mastronardi, is scheduled to appear in court June 17. He’s charged with Violating a Public Health Emergency Order, a Class A misdemeanor. Here’s a link to the story: https://nancyonnorwalk.com/norwalk-police-charge-restaurant-owner-with-violating-public-healthy-emergency-directive/

  23. Science

    Hey Joe, I think it’s dangerous and thoughtless that cops are allowed to kill black people anywhere and everywhere without any repercussions.

    Just think of driving with your family and all of a sudden you’re murdered by a cop.

    And what if you had a medical emergency? The police are condoning lawlessness.

    It’s frightening. I hope this mayor uses his platform to help fight racism.

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