Stories of the Year: Racial justice marches forward

  • Martha Pitt of Greenfield holds a Black Lives on Route 101 in Peterborough this fall. Staff photo by Ben Conant

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 12/28/2020 4:56:17 PM

The deep-seated racial tension that’s been steeping since our country’s founding as a slave culture on stolen land came to a head this summer after Minneapolis, Minnesota police officers stood by while one of their own knelt on Black man George Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds until he died for the alleged crime of passing a counterfeit $20.

Floyd’s video-recorded death was the latest injustice in a history book full of similar tragedies, and he –  along with Breonna Taylor, the innocent Black Louisville, Kentucky woman who was shot to death by police in her bed as police invaded her home on a no-knock warrant – became the face of the worldwide movement for racial justice. And the list grew over the summer, with more police killings taking place or coming to light. There was Ahmaud Arbery, killed by Georgian vigilantes; Jacob Blake, shot in the back by police in Kenosha, Wisconsin; Rayshard Brooks, killed by police in Atlanta, Georgia; Daniel Prude, killed by police in Rochester, New York following a mental health call; Elijah McClain, who died of cardiac arrest in custody following a dose of ketamine to sedate him during a mental health call; Andres Guardado, shot in the back by LA county sheriff’s deputies while working as a security guard, and the list goes on. 

Locally, groups in Peterborough, Dublin, Hancock and Wilton held regular vigils for racial justice and equality and continue to do so. Drive from Dublin through Peterborough and into Wilton on a given Saturday and you might find several different groups standing along Route 101 with signs or pulling up chairs on the police station lawn. 

But has anything actually changed? There have been a handful of racial justice forums and workshops since this summer’s upheaval, but no concrete legislation has been proposed at this point at the local level. At the state level, New Hampshire formed a police accountability task force, which recommended an overhaul of police training standards and use of force guidelines, officer training on implicit bias and cultural responsiveness, body cameras for state police officers, and a citizen review board. The recommendations addressed some, but not nearly all, of the demands Black Lives Matter’s New Hampshire chapter made earlier in the summer; Governor Chris Sununu signed an executive order to turn those recommendations into law. 

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