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Protestors march in Danbury streets holding 'Black Lives Matter' signs

About 1,000 people turned out for a protest Wednesday in Danbury in response to the police custody death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Danbury Police say it was mostly peaceful, with no injuries and no property damage.  

As marchers moved up West Street from the Danbury Public Library to City Hall, there were chants of "No Justice, No Peace" and "I Can't Breathe" among others.  At City Hall, the speakers condemned racism and police brutality, and asked what officials in Danbury are doing to help.  

(Photo: Will Love)

Among the speakers was Will Love of Danbury Area Justice Network.  Love shared a story about being an 8-year old and participating in a Martin Luther King Jr. remembrance, and sang 'We Shall Overcome'. "I am grateful they came together and made this happen," said Love.

"I am grateful that the Danbury Police Department supported us today and I look forward to finding a path forward with the Chief that leads to a more equitable society in Danbury.  The way the police treated all the people of color, is how we should always be treated. We should not have to hold our breath and hope to survive an encounter with the police," said Love.

Love also read a statement issued by 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes for the event.

Mayor Mark Boughton met the crowd at the library and also delivered remarks in front of City Hall.  Boughton said the phrase All Lives Matter is wrong, that when a house in on fire, that house must get the attention. 

"Today Black Lives Matter," Boughton said.  At that point, a woman came up and took the megahorn from his hands, jumped up on the stantion and talked about getting pulled over by Danbury Police, accusing politicians and advocates of only caring today, and not caring tomorrow.

The march then moved down New Street, around to Kennedy Avenue and onto Main Street to head to the police station.  People chanted "Hands Up, Don't Shoot" followed by more remarks. 

Organizers called for a moment of respect and for those in the crowd to take a knee.  Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour also took a knee.  When he started to address the crowd, one of the protestors yelled "I'm a victim of police brutality" and Ridenhour responded that they would talk about that.

Things became tense when some protestors yelled over the rally organizers and Ridenhour.  One person questioned what he's done to bring equality to the City in his few years as Chief.  He attempted to say that training isn't enough, and that the community must work together to make things better.

Boughton was also asked to speak in front of the police station.  He said the state must change some of the regulations so that the police force can better reflect the make up of the community.  Ridenhour noted that the state struck down residency requirements.  

Boughton and Ridenhour didn't have much of an opportunity to talk as they were shouted down.  Others tried to have their grievances heard, but the yelling was too loud.

A portion of the group splintered off and headed up Main and Downs Streets to get to the highway.

Connecticut State Police closed down Interstate 84 in Danbury for about an hour.  Protestor also blocked the exit 5 ramps as they made their way between city streets and the interstate.  

At approximately 1:35 pm, the Danbury Police Department notified Troop A that an estimated 500 protesters were heading towards I-84 in the area of Exit 4. Troop A Troopers, along with Command Staff, arrived in the area to assist with shutting the highway down.  Troopers dispersed the protesters and reopen the highway at approximately 2:36 pm.

There were no arrests, no damage to any property, and no injuries.

A pick up truck driver flipped off the protestors as he made his way up the exit 5 off ramp.  About a dozen people ran up the ramp after the truck, but there were police stationed at the top of the hill to control the situation.

State Police say as of about 2:45pm the road was cleared of pedestrians.  There was still heavy traffic and road closures locally as the group headed back to the area of the library.  A majority of the protestors continued on the planned route from the police station back to the library where the demonstration started.

Most people in attendance were wearing masks, though there was little social distance occurring. 

(Photo: Will Love)

After the official demonstration wrapped a crowd of about 100 remained in front of the police station chanting "Enough is Enough" and handing out water bottles because of the high heat and humidity.  They also continued to have a dialog with Ridenhour.

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Dave Rinelli

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