POUGHKEEPSIE – History was made in Poughkeepsie Tuesday with a first-ever protest march on a portion of the Mid-Hudson Bridge organized by the Stop The Violence Movement. Co-organizer Robert Pemberton, founder of the movement, put together the protest after George Floyd died, allegedly at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer.
Pemberton, along with Joe Stratford, put the event together, scheduled for 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday to draw attention to the multiple deaths of African Americans at the hands of police. Floyd’s death, allegedly attributed to a police officer placing a knee against his neck for several minutes, has enraged the nation. Protests have erupted across the country, with many consisting of multiple agendas by different participants, resulting in both peaceful and violent events simultaneously.
The Poughkeepsie event was well-coordinated with Stop the Violence Movement working with the City of Poughkeepsie and Dutchess County governments.
At the start of the event, Pemberton, Stratford, Dutchess County Executive Marc Molinaro, Ulster Exec Pat Ryan, and Mayor Rob Rolison joined with other community leaders to lead the march down the arterial to cross the Mid-Hudson Bridge.
The march was then supposed to return to Hulme Park, also known as Tubman Park for a rally. Several marchers continued beyond the designated stop and then splintered off into several factions.
One group headed towards the Poughkeepsie police headquarters, requiring Town of Poughkeepsie Police to respond and protect the facility. A second group headed to the northside of the city, attempting to make their way to the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office. Several deputies were removed from their posts and rushed to their headquarters in time to divert the group back towards the park.
Another group made their way to the Poughkeepsie High School, requiring more officers to be re-deployed to prevent any incidents. Yet another group had looped around and went down Main Street towards the river. At that point, law enforcement in Poughkeepsie was stretched thin, requiring multiple Dutchess County agencies to respond as well as several from Ulster, and a large contingent of State Police.
As the groups spread out from the designated endpoint, radio transmissions indicated that bricks were being thrown at Zeus Brewery on Main Street. That report was determined to be false. Reports were also received that rocks were being thrown onto Route 9. That claim was also determined to be false. The groups ended up reuniting near Columbus and Church. The protest carried on with chants of “I Can’t Breathe” and “No Justice, No Peace.” A line of officers prevented individuals from making their way east, back towards the bridge. “Some of the participants are going to go off and do their own thing with their own agenda – and that’s fine – I appreciate their passion,” said Pemberton.
The majority of people in attendance to support the cause left the area by 8:15. A group of more than 200 remained in the area, keeping Church Street closed between Jefferson and Market Streets.
Officers, described by Pemberton were “not aggressive” in their attempts to move the crowd into the park. The group remained. Pemberton did not discourage their actions, adding, “They’re young, their passionate, and they’re fired up – rightfully so.”
“We had a great plan and for the most part, we stuck to the plan,” said Pemberton. The group remained in the street until approximately 10:30, at which time the roadway was reopened to traffic.
Asked what Pemberton hoped to achieve with the protest, he responded, “We have to come together for change, and peaceful protest are a start to that change.”
(videos: Action News Service for Mid-Hudson News)