Westport protests police brutality

WESTPORT — Monday’s peaceful protest as a response to the killing of George Floyd was a rally in support of justice and against systemic racism that drew nearly 100 people from around the area.

“I challenge us. I challenge white and black people to step out of our comfort zones to have those uncomfortable conversations, to go to those town meetings, to talk to people that are in power,” said Chantel Williams, a 22-year-old Bridgeport resident. “To start our own table. We don’t need a seat at the table, we can start our own.”

The protest, which came together through a social media post and included a march from the Westport Library to Whole Foods on Post Road West, followed one on Sunday. It ended at the Westport Police Department where several members of the crowd spoke, including Police Captain Foti Koskinas.

“I stand with you on all of these issues and I stand with you on the fact that we can’t just meet once,” Koskinas said. “This is a much bigger issue.”

The rally — like many throughout the nation in the past two days — was in response to the deaths of George Floyd, a black man who died on Memorial Day after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee onto Floyd’s neck, and Breonna Taylor, a black woman who died after Louisville police opened fire in her apartment.

“The biggest problem is the insidious nature of racism. It’s not just the police,” Amie Ceesay of Fairfield said. “We all need to learn to spend time with each other to know somebody who is unlike you and figure out their story and what they are like.”

Ceesay, who came to the rally alongside her daughter, said she had a lot of hope in the young generation to break down barriers previously erected between communities.

“Understand that your parents — me included — parents make mistakes and what our parents teach us is not always the right thing, and we need you young people to stand up for that,” Ceesay said. “We have to make people learn to love one another, to live with one another, to respect one another and not to judge people by the color of their skin.”

Williams said education is important in being proactive, noting that Sunday was the 99th anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre, when mobs of white residents attacked black residents and businesses of the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Okla.

Koskinas, who spoke to his experience as a first generation immigrant from Greece, said other incidents involving police brutality around the nation were also a part of the needed conversation.

“I want the trust of the community. I don’t want you to be afraid of us,” he said. “The most devastating thing to every officer here is to hear how afraid and disappointed you guys are in us.

“I stand with you. I am devastated by what happened in Minneapolis,” Koskinas said. “I am not devastated by the officer alone, I’m devastated that three other officers didn’t act. That’s devastating.”