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Led by a New Canaan family and joined by local police and public officials, an estimated 2,000-plus people held a peaceful protest in town Thursday evening.
Calling for an end to police brutality and racism in the wake of the May 25 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the protesters marched from Saxe Middle School along South Avenue to the Police Department—where town resident Fatou Niang and her son, New Canaan High School senior Ethan Niang, joined local clergy and Police Chief Leon Krolikowski, among others, in addressing the crowd—and then down Church Street to Main Street and back to Saxe.
Fatou Niang thanked New Canaan Police for providing security for the march and for the department’s continuing service during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This march is not against the police in general, but against the minority of police officers in certain cities who abuse their power against defenseless black citizens,” she said. “We appreciate the support of those who came to march with us today.”
She said that her son, Ethan, with a few friends from NCHS and church, formed the idea of marching peacefully.
“This march is to express our collective deep sadness at the death of an innocent man, but also to recognize that we have to do better to address race relationships everywhere in this country, including in my own town,” she said.
In his comments, Ethan Niang said, “The problem is not that a police officer killed a black man. The problem is that a police officer killed an unarmed black man in broad daylight again. How many times is that going to happen to us? We need reform, we need training and we need oversight.”
Town officials in attendance (many were not recognizable due to masks) included First Selectman Kevin Moynihan, Selectman Nick Williams, Police Commissioner Shekaiba Bennett, Fire Commissioner Beth Jones, Parks & Rec Chair Rona Siegel, state Reps. Lucy Dathan and Tom O’Dea, and state Sens. Will Haskell and Alex Kasser. Sky Davidson addressed the large crowd, which knelt multiple times, including when the Rev. Eric Dupee of the Congregational Church of New Canaan led a prayer. The Rev. Peter Walsh of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church also led a prayer, and said afterwards that he was deeply moved by the protest.
“There is an incredibly beautiful spirit in this community, and it is a spirit that many people might not know is there,” Walsh said.
A trio led the crowd in the national anthem.
Marchers filled the entire width of South Avenue for blocks as they approached police headquarters, chanting “Justice for Floyd,” “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” “I can’t breathe,” “Hands up, don’t shoot,” “Black lives matter,” “Justice for one, justice for all,” “No more murders,” “Get off my neck” and “Say his name, George Floyd, say her name, Breonna Taylor.”
Addressing the crowd, Police Chief Leon Krolikowski said, “We stand with you against racial bias. We stand with you against police brutality. We stand with you to exercise your Constitutional right to effect change. We stand to protect and serve you all.”