Reporter’s Notebook: Are We That Far Apart?

protest

Black Lives Matter and Blue Lives Matter protesters lined opposite sides of Route 9D in Beacon on Sunday (July 19). (Photo by J. Simms)

Dueling protests took place on Sunday (July 19) in Beacon, with one group waving Blue Lives Matter and U.S. flags and signs on the Bank Square side of Route 9D and Black Lives Matter supporters across the street, near City Hall. 

There were a few tense moments, with some participants seemingly itching for a fight. Beacon police officers walked the street, which had not been closed to traffic, to contain any dust-ups. 

That’s not to say the situation was peaceful.

In front of City Hall, Stefon Seward, a 2017 Beacon High School graduate, screamed into a megaphone: “No justice, no peace! No racist police!” 

Across the way, the crowd responded: “U-S-A, U-S-A!”

I had a long day of yard work ahead of me when a reader texted that morning that something was going down near City Hall, so I grabbed my camera and jumped on my bike. By 9:30 a.m. it was already brutally hot, which surely didn’t help ease the tensions.

The hostility from both sides was startling. Some police supporters called the Black Lives Matter people “communists” (which seems archaic) while the Black Lives side chanted “Fuck the police,” which may sound tough but has never been the start of a productive conversation.

Former Beacon Mayor Randy Casale stood with the Blue Lives Matter crowd, holding a sign declaring that City Council Member Dan Aymar-Blair “must go,” presumably because of Aymar-Blair’s public comments about reforming the Police Department. (I called Casale for an explanation but didn’t get a response.)

Randy Casale at protests

At the rally, former Mayor Randy Casale (right) carried a Blue Lives Matter flag and a sign critical of a Beacon City Council member. (Photo by Alejandro Lopez)

The Blue Lives side shouted that veterans back the police, while a woman on the other sidewalk yelled that she had served 20 years in the Air Force and couldn’t accept the U.S. flag being waved as a symbol of hate.

Standing in the middle of 9D, taking photos and listening, I wondered: Will people ever be able to step off these curbs without clenched fists?

For an article last year in The Atlantic, Charles Duhigg spoke with Marshall Ganz, who spent 16 years organizing produce workers in California alongside Cesar Chavez. 

Ganz noted that stoking emotions against injustice is easy but, as Duhigg summarized, “for anger to be productive, at some point, it must stop. Victory often demands compromise.” Ganz told him: “You have to know how to arouse passions to fuel the fight, and then how to cool everyone down so they’ll accept the deal on the table.”

I can’t claim, as a white person, that I’ll ever understand what people of color have endured in this country, but it seems impossible not to recognize the anger and frustration our neighbors feel after a lifetime of slights and centuries of abhorrent treatment. 

Conversely, most police officers are not racists or rogue and must feel unfairly criticized and taken for granted. The city’s police respond to hundreds of calls each month and, like law enforcement everywhere, can never be sure what to expect when they arrive.

I hated to see this confrontation in Beacon, namely because of how often I’ve heard folks say that we are a resilient and supportive people here. 

That was never more evident than this spring, when the coronavirus brought all of our lives to a screeching halt, but Beacon residents banded together immediately to deliver food and medical supplies to vulnerable people who couldn’t leave their homes. 

What about the fundraisers — created by schoolkids — that distributed more than $20,000 to small businesses in the region, or the volunteers who risked their safety to put free groceries in our trunks when many of us were stuck inside?

That was three months ago. 

Route 9D isn’t that wide, is it?


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16 thoughts on “Reporter’s Notebook: Are We That Far Apart?

  1. Peaceful demonstrations are good. Violence is bad. I agree with the writer’s view 100%. I’d like to add one comment, though. When I hear someone say something like, “I’m so tired of hearing about this…,” I need to refrain from screaming something like, “If you’re tired of hearing about it, imagine how you might feel living it every day of your life?”

  2. I was at this demonstration on the Back the Blue side from about 9 a.m. till 10 a.m. There apparently was some extremely ugly behavior that I was oblivious to or occurred after I left, but this piece doesn’t tell the whole story. I witnessed police encouraging leaders of both sides to speak with each other, which happened. I saw demonstrators cross the street to hug friends or family members on the other side. On the Back the Blue side I had discussions with others about understanding some of the concerns raised by Black Lives Matter.

  3. Seeing both sides protesting makes me wonder: Do either side of the spectrum believe they will ever change the other side’s beliefs? With each protest (peaceful ones), each is preaching to their own choir. After each protest either side then seems to hit social media with video of their march and either side expressing their beliefs to people from their group agreeing with each other while criticizing the other side. Besides being upset with each other’s views, not sure any of you will ever have anyone change their minds. This is pretty much the same for the major party elections. Each side has made up their minds way before voting and the only thing that changes is how many people actually will come out to vote in a particular area (state or county). Kind of just spinning your wheels.

  4. Most humans want to stop violence and oppression, and can still respect police. Unfortunately, there is no leadership willing to step out of the sheep and lead. [via Facebook]

  5. I thought the “pro-police” rally was to thank officers for their service, not to counter Black Lives Matter? The language used is the problem. [via Facebook]

  6. All of those on the side supporting law enforcement were from Beacon. Those on the Black Lives Matter side were not. They came from other towns to counter-protest against a peaceful rally. Beacon is not divided at all. I’ve lived here 52 years. Beacon was much more racially divided in the 1960s through the 1980s. This column does not depict the current atmosphere in Beacon. [via Facebook]

  7. Members of the organized Black Lives Matter movement come into communities to push its agenda but try to appear to be community members. They lie, use false names online and hope to dismantle communities for their Marxist agenda. First on the list: Abolish the police. [via Facebook]

  8. That is nonsense. Overwhelmingly the protestors are from Beacon, with maybe a few from Philipstown. The small sad group of bigots is a minority in both Beacon and in the U.S. at large. Both sides aren’t the same and we don’t have to pretend like they are for some illusion of civility.

    If you spend your Sunday carrying defaced flags with fascist emblems because you’ve been thrown into hysterics that black people want basic civil rights and perhaps police shouldn’t conduct extrajudicial executions with no repercussions, I’m not particularly interested in having common ground with you. [via Facebook]

  9. Pro-police rallies are very few and far between, yet at each event anti-police warriors are sure to have a contingent of haters show up. Pro-police folks do not show up to the hundreds of anti-police rallies out of fear of being assaulted. So, allow another group to express their sentiment every once in a while. [via Facebook]

  10. The photo is a stark visual metaphor for what’s going on right now, both demographically and symbolically. [via Facebook]

  11. We can’t wear our hair how we want, can’t live where we want, can’t work where we want, can’t walk to the store, can’t get married, can’t play outside, can’t stand outside, can’t stand on our porches, can’t go visit a friend, can’t peacefully protest, can’t protest when hurt or angry, because our actions and pain are always being appropriated.

    Every time we try to make people aware of the effects of their B.S., there’s a “counter argument.” We don’t want to have to march for the same damn thing 20 times a year. If you can’t get with the program that we aren’t supposed to be slaves anymore, find a corner, shut up and leave us alone. [via Facebook]

  12. Black Lives Matter is not “anti-police.” It’s anti-brutality. There’s a difference. [via Facebook]

  13. Anyone who thinks Black Lives Matter is about abolishing the police is off-base. I’m not for abolishing anything, but I do believe improvements can be made in law-enforcement practices. [via Facebook]

  14. People can believe that black lives matter without subscribing to ending capitalism or the stated goals of the official Black Lives Matter organization. The movement itself has become something much bigger, broader and more benevolent than the original organization. Until people of color receive the same health care treatment, representation in government, social services, and ability to own a home or job advancement as white people, you better believe black lives matter. [via Facebook]

  15. There is so much common ground between the groups, but people want to fight instead of listen. People want to feel like they are in control during these uncertain times. If you are angry, well, join the world! Knowledge is power. Hate has no home here. [via Facebook]