The protests in honor of George Floyd are not stopping and tonight at 6 p.m. in Bicentennial Park along Exchange Street, the Geneva NAACP is organizing a peaceful rally.
The fourth straight day of protests ensue in the City of Geneva, and Geneva NAACP President Lucille Mallard explained that this demonstration will not take to the streets with any marching at all, but rather lots of chanting.
The city’s chapter of the NAACP has been inspired by a recent call-out from National Director Derrick Johnson to “speak out, stand up, speak out and be heard about the indefensible murder,” as she put it.
With days of protests already occurring multiple times throughout each afternoon and evening by the Peoples Peaceful Protest, she notes their NAACP chapter has not been involved with these demonstrations.
When Sunday came rolling around and the first demonstration occurred, senior organizers with the NAACP were starting plan for tonight’s event, according to Mallard.
Strategic partners who are a part of this evening’s protest come from a wide cast including several local churches and faith leaders, the African American Men’s Association, Martin Luther King Jr. Committee, the Human Rights Commission, and many others.
Even her daughter, Valerie, who serves as the advisor to the NAACP’s Youth Council will be present this evening.
With multiple demonstrations occurring in the city, even simultaneously, Mallard emphasizes that all groups have a right to protest and free assembly, whether it’s with the NAACP or the Peoples Protest.
In her eyes, all efforts are valid and equal.
“People have a right to protest and attend any rally that they choose. So, we do not try to prevent anyone from attending,” Mallard told FingerLakes1.com.
At the same time, however, the NAACP has not made a presence at previous protests because of concerns over whether someone will say something “not proper.”
“So, we wanted to kind of stay away from that and let the young people do what they felt that they needed to do without us being directly involved,” she added.
For Mallard, some spouted rhetoric from activists who are a part of the Peoples Peaceful Protest constitutes misconduct in her opinion.
In a recent Facebook post, Ward 5 City Councilor Laura Salamendra wrote, “Let it burn, let it burn, and let it burrnnnnn,” which later became seen as her suggesting to burning down the city’s police station.
“We definitely condemn those kinds of statements,” Mallard strongly stated.
Speaking on behalf of the NAACP chapter, Mallard considers “anything that expresses violence toward the police or the property of the police” as unacceptable.
According to Councilor Salamendra, however, in an exclusive statement, she explains that her post originates from the lyrics of “Burn,” a famous Usher song, and claims that her comment’s meaning has been “twisted” by “reactionaries” to present her as someone who advocates for violence, when in-fact she is not and rather standing in solidarity alongside other activists since last Sunday.
But more importantly, she claims that this movement is much bigger than herself and about the “Black women and men” who are disproportionately impacted by incidents of “police brutality, over-policing, and racism” here in the City of Geneva.
“The statement everyone is saying was a reference to burning a building was really about burning down a system of white supremacy and oppression. Reactionaries in the city have twisted the original meaning to mislead people into thinking I advocate violence. In fact, I have stood peacefully in solidarity every day and night since Sunday with a group of the most inspiring, dedicated activists I have ever worked with. The young Black women and men who have organized these protests have created a beautiful atmosphere of love and acceptance and anti-racist community in the PSB parking lot and in the streets. Some forces in the City want the issue to be me. But the real story is about these young people and the future of peace and equality they’re trying to build. These forces will do almost anything to distract from the real issues of police brutality, over-policing, and racism in our City. When we see hundreds of Genevans of all colors marching through the streets and standing outside their houses, fists raised in solidarity, we know that the vast majority of Genevans are with us. It’s not about me, it’s about a movement. Do I value property over Black lives? Absolutely not, and no one should,” Salamendra wrote in a full statement to FingerLakes1.com.
But now, ahead of this evening, Mallard thinks about how to enhance relationships between communities within the City of Geneva and its police force.
“I think right now, people need to focus on trying to get better cooperation with communities and police officers,” she said.
A step forward in the right direction starts with Chief of Police Michael Passalacqua springing into the streets among a marching crowd, raising a fist in the air while still wearing his uniform.
Calling it “an excellent move,” Mallard mentions that he and other community actors have worked toward mediating the racial divide throughout the city.
“The chief and other African Americans and people of color have been trying to pull this community together to have a better relationship with the police… and I think by him doing that, that shows people in our community that the police, you know, they are human, they know that we are human,” she continued.
Mallard even believes that Chief Passalacqua may remain out in public tonight and at future events, as long as the protests remain peaceful, which they have been across the city.
“As long as it’s peaceful and non-violent, I think he will continue to be out there, and if people break the law, then that’s a different story,” she concluded.