Protesters descend on Windsor Amazon site to call attention to noose discoveries, slow pace of investigation | Connecticut & Region
WINDSOR – A small number of protesters gathered Saturday at the Amazon construction site in what was billed an Occupy Amazon-like rally to draw attention to the discovery of several nooses at the site last spring, with some members of the group scaling the chain-link fence and tossing smoke bombs in an attempt to provoke police, but no arrests were made.
The group, led by longtime Hartford activist the Rev. Cornell Lewis and his “Self Defense Brigade,” continued their plea that someone needs to be held accountable for the nooses.
Although Lewis said there would be armed protesters, no firearms were visible throughout the late morning and afternoon.
The group met around 11 a.m. at the Stop & Shop plaza on Kennedy Road before driving to the still-under-construction Amazon site down the street.
It was clear from the onset that far fewer members of Lewis’ group chose to attend the event on a warm, sunny, summer Saturday afternoon.
“We don’t have enough people to occupy,” Lewis said. “When the conditions on the battlefield change, you change.”
Once at the Amazon site, Lewis, along with Manchester residents Erin Melocowsky and Leesa Tyler, scaled the chain-link fence and sat on the ground as police approached.
The three remained on the private property for about 15 minutes, speaking calming with police who asked them to return to the other side of the fence. The three protesters complied without incident.
Officers who approached the protesters argued their actions were not beneficial to their cause and would not help accomplish their goal.
Melocowsky attempted to begin a chant by shouting into a bullhorn, saying “Amazon is racist,” “Windsor is racist,” and “End white supremacy,” but the meager crowd could barely be heard over the bullhorn.
Shortly after, three members of the group threw four smoke bombs just in front of the fence, during which one other protester – Niamh MacGuinness – slid under the fence and was again confronted by police, who asked her to return to the other side of the fence. MacGuinness complied nearly instantly.
“Amazon has done nothing,” she said of the pace of the investigation into the noose discovery. “Silence is violence.”
Amazon officials have been in routine communication with town leaders, law enforcement, and the Connecticut chapter of the NAACP. The company also has offered a $100,000 reward for information.
Perhaps the most dangerous part of the day was when the wind pulled the smoke from the smoke bombs onto the busy Kennedy Road, potentially creating a traffic hazard.
Lewis called the smoke bombs “theatrics.”
Motorists in several passing vehicles honked their horns in support of the protesters and no accidents occurred.
“It was uneventful for the most part,” Windsor Police Chief Donald Melanson said of the protest, but added that video footage from body cameras and a drone will be reviewed next week.
Amazon may have a say in whether charges are filed, he said, noting that the property owners likely would have to agree that criminal charges are appropriate.
“The whole incident will be under review,” Melanson said.
Carlton Cooper, of Meriden, also attended the protest to get answers regarding the nooses, but said he had no intention of breaking any laws.
“I’m not participating in barging in there,” he said.
Likewise, Hartford resident Michael Oretade said that while he feels the public is being “gaslighted” and the nooses were “a threat on human life,” he would not be joining Lewis and the others in their attempts to occupy the Amazon site on Saturday.
Three members of the Connecticut chapter of the John Brown Gun Club were present, but only for security if needed against counter protesters who never showed up, they said.
The noose discoveries are being investigated by the Windsor Police Department and the FBI.
As of Saturday afternoon, $840 had been raised from a social media fundraiser for potential legal fees if anyone gets arrested in future protests, which are being planned, Lewis said.
Melanson said police were not sure how many people to expect Saturday, but they will continue to facilitate peaceful protests that don’t pose a risk to public safety.
“Obviously, the Windsor Police Department supports lawful peaceful protests,” he said. “Our job as law enforcement is to protect those who lawfully protest, but also make sure that our officers can do that in a safe manner.”
While Lewis said, “we did the best we could with what we had,” he insisted that he and his supporters will convince more people to attend a future protest at the site, when they will “turn it up a notch.”
“We just didn’t have the amount of people we need to occupy the property,” Lewis said, adding that he would consider paying people and have a van drive them to a future protest.
Saturday’s protest was delayed a week because Lewis could not get enough people to attend last week.
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