PORT JERVIS – Several hundred participants turned out to lend support to a historic first for Port Jervis, a “Black Lives Matter March Against Police Brutality” held Wednesday morning, June 10.
The event was promoted as a family-friendly peaceful march, which it was. It was escorted by Port’s Police Chief William Worden and other local officers with whom organizers had worked cooperatively over the past couple of weeks regarding the march.
While cooperative and peaceful, organizers called for marchers not to remain silent, to demand justice, educate themselves about their rights, and to join together to bring about justice and equality – and to end police brutality against black lives.
Six young women spoke as leaders of the march, which was organized and led by Arabia Shearn, a recent college graduate and lifelong resident of Port Jervis, told participants that she had been involved in social issues in college and felt it was important to continue to help bring about equality and justice for all.
Among other speakers at Riverside Park, where the march began, was a mother who said she cried but was not surprised to learn that George Floyd called for his mother as his neck was pinned beneath a police officer’s knee.
“In the end, that’s the one person you always know you can trust. Of course, he called for his mother when he couldn’t breathe and was dying,” said Ruth Faircloth, of Milton, bringing many in the group to tears. “I had ‘the talk’ with my children every single time they went out of the house. I was always afraid that they might not come home, even though they never even had so much as a traffic violation. This should not be the way anyone has to live.”
Marchers carried messages with diverse wording and concerns, chanting for change and equality for all as they marched through downtown Port Jervis, up Fowler Street, and along a section of East Main Street where Robert Lewis, an African American Port Jervis man, was hung from a tree in June of 1892.
Remarks were made from the steps of First Presbyterian Church in historic Orange Square, where Civil War soldiers once gathered and mulled over social issues not so different of that time.
Reverend Ann Akers was among the speakers who offered prayer. Akers also called for those able, to take a knee in silence for the same length of time it took Floyd to die as a knee remained pressed upon his neck.
“We will remain silent for eight-minutes and 46-seconds,” Akers said. “The timer has been set.”
There were no problems reported during the approximately two-hour gathering, other than several treated for heat-related problems.