Letter to the Editor: Sarah Salem called out the wrong people

On June 2nd, 2020 in the great Queen City, my organization, STOP THE VIOLENCE MOVEMENT (STVM) held a peaceful yet POWERFUL PROTEST.  We held the protest rightfully called ” WE CAN’T BREATHE.” From the Friday when the event was created until the day of the march, it drew incredible attention from families, friends, clergy, young people, black and white, Baptist, Protestant, and I assume left and the right.  We stressed non-violence throughout the advertising of the event. Among all the violent and unruly protests around the country, we felt the urge to send a strong message not only on how to make our voices heard but also relive what we saw in black and white during school.
We remember SELMA! We met with local and state law enforcement as to the bridge crossing and at first, it was a no!!! We stressed the importance of AMERICA STAYING TRUE TO WHAT THEY PUT ON PAPER, The right to PROTEST for RIGHTS.  At 2:30 PM on the day of the march we met in city hall with the Mayor, the Major of NYSP Troop K, Poughkeepsie police officials, bishop Deborah Gauze, Rev. Stacy Bottoms, and John Penney, Director of Community Engagement for the City of Poughkeepsie.
For respect and concern for our community, we agreed that to allow any more than 100 people to cross the bridge would definitely put life-saving medical services (ambulances) on hold during the crossing and we mutually agreed the safe yet low number of 100 people was sufficient.  I wanted everyone to be able to cross the span.
During the bridge crossing the protesters didn’t all wait for those on the bridge to return.  Instead, they took it to the streets numerous times.  I was so nervous the young people would become unruly— nope. They said to me “We ain’t go to do nothing but go where we want, and we’ll be back.” And that they did.
Now I understand Ms. Sarah Salem of the Poughkeepsie common council was angered that all didn’t cross and took it upon herself at the start of a recent meeting to address and call out me and my President of STVM.
We held five events with no sight of her, no support, no words, no nothing from Salem.
We don’t ask for donations, and we don’t have a huge organization.  We are two men!
Two men who don’t live in Poughkeepsie but love the community and its people.  Two men who also kept their word as to what type of event planned and executed.
Three years ago we marched from Earlene Patrice Park to the riverfront but did so via Main Street.  Sarah, we didn’t see you there!
So your mad and said ” some were ALLOWED to cross but many were left BEHIND and you stood with the many.” Did you also march through the amazing Power Kingdom or did you go home? As a leader, I wish you joined me when 2000 people were face to face with 300 law enforcement officers because the tension at times was unbearable but hey it’s the bridge crossing. I wish you lead in the many de-escalation situations as we took part in, but hey it’s all about who crossed.
Do you know who crossed?
Here are two examples:
1. A young lady whose dad is at the 45 precinct of the NYPD in the south Bronx who expressed herself to the Troop K Major, the encounter ended with a simple HUG.
2. a young Latino boy whom I overheard his mom talk about how he runs when he sees the law and a young white girl took the lead coming back not for the photo op or to disrespect the many, but simply to show that we can all change especially how we treat and talk to one another.
You see clergy, the mayor, and local politicians, organizations, citizens, media, and law enforcement also crossed.
Ask them what the plea was to them.
I’m done for now but wanted Sarah to know WE ARE COMING! I hope you allow the appropriate time for us when we present to the Common Council.  I hope you vote YES when the time comes.
Until then, my number doesn’t change. 518 760 2431. I will impose this question to Ms. Salem:
Aren’t you amazed that two men with simple social media advertising, a bit of love for community, and change got two thousand people to attend a protest that yielded no loss of property, no arrests, not a single burning or looting of any business? All that happened even you went home safe and sound.
What is amazing is that no-one but Joseph Stratford and myself believed its was going to start peacefully and end peacefully.
We love the Queen City and all of its people.
Robert Pemberton
Stop the VIOLENCE movement
Opinions expressed in this letter are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Mid Hudson News.


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