Nearly 100 show up for Black Lives Matter/Pride protest and open mic Sunday

Kate Dempsey, a 2019 graduate of Darien High School and Tammy Nguyen, a rising junior at Darien High, organized this protest and a previous protest on June 19.

Just like with the vigil we organized, we thought that barely anyone would show up. Like a person waiting for the guests to arrive before a party, we anxiously hoped that Darien residents would come and see this as a movement and not a moment. We are somewhat in awe that Darien residents have continued to show support for Black Lives Matter by coming to these protests, while also supporting the LGBTQ+ community in this one. With this protest in particular, our open mic highlighted the ways in which Black Lives Matter and the LGBTQ+ community overlap, because if it weren’t for black transgender women, LGBTQ+ rights would not be where they are today.

We talked at the protest about how the catalyst for these rights started with the Stonewall Riots that took place in Greenwich Village in New York City on June 28, 1969. At that time, it was illegal to publicly show “gay behavior,” such as holding hands, kissing, or even dancing with your significant other.

Gay bars were frequently raided and shut down by the police for being “disorderly.” Stonewall Inn was one of, if not the only, gay bar left at that time where people could still dance. The bar was an important institution in the Greenwich Village for the LGBTQ+ community, as it also welcomed drag queens and provided refuge for runaway or homeless gay youths. That morning of June 28th, a raid occurred at the Stonewall Inn. The New York Police Department pulled employees and patrons out of the bar. Fed up with the constant police harassment and social discrimination, the angry patrons and neighborhood residents did not disperse when asked to. An officer allegedly hit a lesbian woman over the head as he forced her into a police van; she shouted for onlookers to act, which incited the crowd to begin throwing objects at the police.

The first person to throw a brick to start the riots was Ms. Marsha P. Johnson, a Black transgender woman who would later become a pioneer for the LGBTQ+ community. Within minutes, a full blown riot involving hundreds of people began. The riots then continued for days. These riots did not start the gay rights movement, but they served as the first catalyst for the movement in the U.S. and worldwide, leading to the formation of numerous gay rights organizations that continued to push for change.

The most recent catalysts include the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015, and the very recent Supreme Court ruling that people cannot be fired nor discriminated against based on their sexuality or gender identity. We need to continue to be a part of this growing change that will bring about more of these catalysts, so that we are able to secure rights for all regardless of their age, race, sexuality, and gender.

During the open mic, several residents of Darien and residents of neighboring towns came forward to speak about racism and homophobia in the town. While some relayed the message of speaking up when you hear homophobic or racist remarks, others spoke about giving support to all Black lives. Black lives matter means fighting for disabled Black lives, queer Black lives, Black women, and guilty Black lives. Even if someone might have committed a crime, that should not mean a death sentence.

Another speaker, Stamford activist Bailey Bitetto, noted that a black man named Steven Barrier had his life wrongly taken away by police after being denied medical attention, and that this happened only five minutes away from us. We dissociate ourselves by living in the “bubble,” and do not realize what is taking place just outside of it. Likewise, this town disassociates from within. From sundown laws to redlining, this town has yet to acknowledge its deep-rooted racism.

Go to protests. Sign petitions. Donate if you can. Educate yourselves and others. Each person in this town will make a difference if they choose to speak up and stand for what is right. This is not about being a Democrat or a Republican: this is about basic human rights. We will be looking to organize more protests/events for the Black Lives Matter movement, as well as attending other protests and educating ourselves as much as we can. We will be creating an online shop where anyone from Darien families making bracelets to local artists painting portraits will be able to sell their art to raise money for Black Lives Matter/LGBTQ+ organizations and charities (more information will be made available). This does not end with this protest, nor will it end with the next. This ends when there is change everywhere in support of Black and LGBTQ+ lives.