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'Don't forget': Black Lives Matter group raises awareness in Groton

Groton — It was a small but spirited group that gathered on Saturday outside a Groton shopping center on Long Hill Road, waving to passing cars and holding Black Lives Matter banners while huddling together to stay warm.

It was a reminder, participants said, that the movement is alive and well and that the issues of systemic racism brought to the national spotlight following the death of George Floyd and other Black individuals are still around.

“Don’t forget, because we haven’t,” said Nanayaa Ali, 18, a senior at Fitch High School.

Ali is a member of the Groton Youth Collective, a fledgling youth activist organization that helped spearhead a protest last summer in Groton that drew close to 1,000 people in protest of police brutality and racism.

Ali said the group claims about 30 core members and plans a series of peaceful protests and fundraisers focused on social justice issues and causes.

The beeping from passing cars was a near constant on Saturday but Leah Richardson, 17, said it’s not always so welcoming. There is the occasional commuter who will flip the bird as they drive by.

“Why? Some people really don’t understand the movement, honestly,” Richardson said. “Yes, all lives matter. But what we’re trying to say is Black lives matter, too. There is a difference in how our race is treated.”

Groton City Councilor Aundre Bumgardner stood in support with the group on Saturday and said he was “blown away by their enthusiasm, by their commitment to highlighting systemic racism not only in within our community but in surrounding communities, as well, where this discussion has never taken place.”

Bumgardner, who is planning to challenge the sitting mayor in Groton City in a primary in March, said that in stark contrast to the violent mob that descended on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 6 to desecrate the U.S. Capitol, “what you have here is young people protesting and singing songs of unity and inclusion.”

“This is a peaceful protest," he said. "If any person took the opportunity to have a conversation with these young people, you would understand they are protesting to save Black lives and highlight systemic racism that persists in every form of government.”

“They show up to speak their minds and they’re here to listen as well and willing to engage in a respectful conversation about the issues they care about. I respect that,” he said.

g.smith@theday.com

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