Hundreds of people formed a ribbon June 4 that stretched for more than a mile along Blue Hills Parkway in Milton and Mattapan to call for an end to racial discrimination and police brutality in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25.
The “Milton Stand Out Against Racism” protest, one of dozens across the state and the second in Milton, drew families and individuals of all races, ages, and religious backgrounds who carried signs calling for an end to violence and renewed unity with neighbors of all colors.
About a dozen cars circled the parkway honking horns and encouraging the crowd.
Lining both sides of the roadway and the median, most knelt down on one knee in a successive “wave” that started near Canton Avenue and lasted for eight minutes and 49 seconds, the length of time that a video showed a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck before he died.
Standing in front of Parkway United Methodist Church after the march, church member Annette Correia said the recent killings of black residents, combined with the stress of COVID-19, have been stressful for all.
“This is the reset my heart needed,” she said.
The rally was organized by Courageous Conversations Towards Racial Justice and the Milton Interfaith Clergy Association, who said they wanted to give residents an opportunity to show their support for equality and still maintain social distancing.
“We didn’t want people to die from having shown up here,” said Deb Alsebai, one of the organizers with Courageous Conversations. “I feel great about the way it turned out.”
Alsebai said she hopes the event will prompt residents to build even more bridges between the two communities.
“I don’t want folks to just walk away. I want them to learn how we can all make a difference. I want people to wake up and understand white privilege and the privileges we have in Milton,” she said as the residents walked back to cars and into the surrounding neighborhoods.
The Milton Select Board on June 3 declared June 4 a day of reflection and witness “seeking equality and justice for all.”
Milton Police Chief John King said the peaceful gathering was “a huge step” for the community and his officers estimated the crowd to consist of more than 3,000 people.
He said Milton police are hurting over the “failure in policing that took place in Minneapolis.”
During the protest, residents held signs and stood in solidarity along the sidewalks and wide median strip along the parkway from Canton Avenue and onto Blue Hill Avenue to the bridge into Mattapan.
Kathy Kihanya sat next to her son, Ed Kihanya, both of whom have been involved in Courageous Conversations since it was formed about eight years ago.
“We’re very upset about what happened,” Kathy said.
“It's an important opportunity to bring about the changes that need to be made,” he said.
Vivien Morris and her husband, Don King, who have lived near the Milton/Mattapan/Hyde Park line for 31 years, said that since they are older, they welcomed having a “more controlled” environment for showing their support.
The couple said they were part of a group that advocated for years for the creation of the Neponset River Greenway Trail that is now a wonderful connection between the two communities.
“It’s so good to get out with like-minded people again,” Don King said.