Andre Clark joined hundreds of people at the guardrails around Grant Circle to tell one girl that it is all right to be scared. 

"She is black and her family side is white," Clark said. "I just want to tell her to trust her family."

As cars made their way around Grant Circle at 3 p.m. Monday, more than 200 people stood in collaboration with the newly formed Youth Peace Movement of Gloucester at the gateway to the city in a peaceful protest to raise awareness that black lives matter. 

"A lot of these kids are probably scared with all of this looting and fighting that is going on," Clark said, referring to the riots in Minneapolis and Georgia that were in response to the death of a handcuffed George Floyd when an officer pressed a knee into his neck for more than eight minutes. 

Clark, a former Dorchester resident and Boston Globe employee, remembers when CBS Evening News anchor Walter Kronkite cried reporting the news of Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968. 

"Right then and there, your childhood ended," he explained, remembering what it was like to grow up as a child of color during the civil rights movement. "I remember sleeping against the wall scared to death."

Youth Peace Movement of Gloucester protest organizer Jada Exama, 14, of Gloucester said was surprised to see so many people come out in support Monday. 

Exama and her friends Ella Anderson, 14, and Camilla Wilkins-Bowens, 15, had held a peaceful protest on Saturday — which only a handful of local teens attended. 

By 5:30 p.m. Monday — the second protest hosted by Youth Peace Movement of Gloucester — there were well over 200 people in attendance. 

"It started off just the seven and now there is all of this," Exama motioned to the people that stood alongside almost the entire circumference of the rotary. 

She credits the spike in numbers to the spread of information through social media platforms and word-of-mouth.

#StandUpDontStandBy

As the minutes ticked by and cars circled in and out of the rotary Monday afternoon, the guardrails filled up with people of all ages with signs and T-shirts — including an appearance by police Chief Ed Conley and Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken.

"As a part of the black community, it shows that we have support from others who aren't silent and are also standing up," protester Trinity O'Leary, 15, said.

Essex resident and former Gloucester school teacher Kate Koch-Sundquist said is extremely important to not raise the "next generation of entitled white men."

Koch-Sundquist looked over at her sons — Sebastian, 8, and August, 7— as she explained that standing alongside the guardrails of Route 128 is "teaching them they need to speak up and they need to use their power to empower others." 

"I think that is one of the most important things that I can pass on to them as white men," she added. 

To be a part of this protest, for Sebastian, means "to be helpful."

As two white adults raising a black son, Phoebe Potts of Gloucester and her husband "often don't know what we are doing and this is really important to us to feel like there is a community that is caring about the same issues and that is dedicated to a just system."

Coming to the protest with their son was "a place to express ourselves and to show our support with the African American community across the country," Potts explained.

Across the country

Those standing on the edge of Grant Circle are a part of a larger movement across the United States as people stand up against racism. 

Over the past three months, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery and Floyd were killed on the basis of their skin color. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, was shot eight times in her home by Louisville, Kentucky, police officers executing a search warrant. Ahmaud Arbery, 25, of Georgia was jogging in when he was shot by two men claiming they were trying to make a citizen's arrest.

"What they went through is absolutely disgusting and we really just want to see a change," Wilkins-Bowens said. "At the end of the day we are all human and color should not define who we are."

"Exactly," Exama agreed. 

Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or tbradford@gloucestertimes.com.

Recommended for you