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South River high schoolers organize march voicing opposition to police brutality

Protesters kneel in front of the South River Police Department.

SOUTH RIVER–Equipped with signs, their voices and protective masks, more than 200 protesters attended the #BlackLivesMatter march/protest on June 5 to bring local attention to police brutality.

South River High School sophomores Mariana Bernardino, Samantha Oliveira, Fernando Cruz-Pena and Beatriz Carvalho co-organized the protest with help from the South River Police Department.

On May 25, George Floyd, 46-year-old African American, died in Minneapolis, Minnesota, after white Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes while Floyd was handcuffed. Since Floyd’s death, global, national and statewide protests and marches have taken place to bring attention to police brutality.

“We decided to organize this because of how outraged we are by the events that keep happening every day. The fact that people are treated differently just because of their skin color breaks our hearts. We know that we can’t change the world overnight but that we can make a change in our community so we tried our best to,” Beatriz said.

Before the march, protesters took a knee in the middle of the street in front of the South River Police Department Headquarters building, located at 61 Main St. Mariana, Beatriz and Samantha spoke briefly while members of the police department helped pass out water and Gatorade to protesters.

Once the march began, protesters chanted “No justice, no peace,” “Black Lives Matter,” “I can’t breathe,” “George Floyd” and “Breonna Taylor.” Taylor is a 26-year-old African American emergency medical technician who was fatally shot by Louisville Metro Police Department officers in her house on March 13.

Protesters marched up Main Street, made a left onto Gordon Street, then another left onto Jackson Street and Ferry Street, before ending the march back at police headquarters.

Resident Jen Baker, who is the owner of Baker Squared, passed out free protective masks, water, Gatorade and cupcakes to protesters. The masks were created by the Middlesex County Mask Project. Baker said she wanted to provide free masks for the protesters so that everyone could feel safe while participating in the protest.

“I was able to not only help supply some drinks and cupcakes for the march, [but] I was also able to have the honor of standing and protesting with everyone trying to make a change in this country,” Baker said. “It was full of power and raw emotion. It was a day and feeling I will never forget. To everyone that has the courage to stand for what’s right, know that we all stand together in unity.”

Back at police headquarters, protesters took a knee to observe a moment of silence to honor Floyd and asked for members of the police department to take a knee with them. After speaking with several protesters, Chief of Police Mark Tinitigan and Mayor John Krenzel agreed to take a knee and observe another moment of silence to honor Floyd.

For more information about the police department’s community programs, visit www.southriverpd.org.

Contact Vashti Harris at vharris@newspapermediagroup.com.

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