Chanting, kneeling, even meditating, protesters packed Shawsheen Square on Monday night to honor the life of George Floyd, the black man who was killed by a police officer during an arrest in Minneapolis last week.
Police Chief Patrick Keefe estimated about 500 people attended the rally, called “Not One More!”
Hosted by Merrimack Valley Shows Up For Social and Racial Justice, and the Andover Area Solidarity Group, the event was peaceful, but not completely void of tension.
Protesters lined the coned-off intersection, waving “Black Lives Matter” flags and holding signs declaring “Being black should not be a death sentence,” “There comes a time where silence is betrayal,” and “I’ll tell you what freedom means to me. No fear!”
The latter message was carried by Bria Gadsen of North Andover, who works for the nonprofit Resilient Sisterhood Project, a women’s reproductive health organization.
“I am out here because I have no fear and it’s important that I’m present speaking out against these injustices, not only in my community, my state, but what’s happening across the country,” Gadsen said.
Blake Cadet, 29, of Merrimac, said it’s important to understand the relationship between resources and racism.
“Racism is about economic gain,” he said. “It’s about withholding resources from a certain amount of people.”
At one point during the hour-long rally that began at 5 p.m., the entire crowd kneeled on the ground in a moment of silence, some people in prayer.
Aileen Torres, 23, had been posed in meditation already, crying at times.
“It’s one too many,” she said. “It’s already one too many.”
She works at a plaza down the street and when her employer found out about the protest, her managers began to rearrange in anticipation of violence.
“My coworkers and I were saying, ‘They really think we are out here to be reckless.’ That’s not at all the point — and they definitely missed it, getting rid of everything in the storefront, closing the store early,” Torres said.
“I know that because of a lot of video recordings of the protests, that a lot of people are spinning it,” she added. “... I knew that I wanted to come here and meditate in peace and actually kind of have this light of protection for so many people coming out today.”