ITHACA, N.Y. –– Even larger crowds gathered this weekend to listen to community members speak on the racial injustice in policing in Ithaca and what can be done to address it moving forward as protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers enter their second week.
32-year-old Ithaca native Jordan Clemons who spoke last Sunday, took on the role of unofficial emcee bringing speakers up and leading the crowd in chants of “no justice, no peace.”
“Like I said last protest, I’m shifting my life to this cause,” he said. Clemons has been a basketball coach in Ithaca for several years. He said he wanted to make Sunday’s event about hearing from voices that haven’t been heard during the last week of protests. “We can’t get anywhere if we don’t start listening to one another,” Clemons said.
One of those voices that was yet to be heard was Mayor Svante Myrick who spoke for the first time publicly on Sunday. Myrick spoke about what he’s done in the past to shrink the police budget, and what he plans on doing in the future to achieve justice –– for instance holding police accountable by supporting the repeal of law 50a.
50a prevents the public from being able to access police officers’ disciplinary records. A bill to repeal 50a is expected to be voted on by state lawmakers this week.
“We can do internal investigations and carry out discipline but you will never know about it,” Myrick said. “What you can do now is call your state legislator.”
Myrick also asked for forgiveness and understanding from the public for not speaking out sooner.
“I want to say to some of those who have called me out for being physically slow to join these protests that I’m sorry and that I’m shell shocked…I’m human,” he said. “My father has been arrested countless times, (based on) his height and build, when I see George Floyd being murdered by that police officer it looks like my father. I feel like I’m watching my family being killed by that police officer.”
Clemons thanked the Mayor for speaking and asked the crowd to continue to educate themselves and take action moving forward.
“I was not informed on all the things the mayor brought to my attention. However, I am happy and proud that I learned something new today. I’m pretty sure a lot of you weren’t aware of all of the things that he said. But now you guys are informed –– the question is now what are you going to do?” asked Clemons. “Are you going to take action or are you coming down here to make some noise?”
One of the people who plans to take action is community member Aundre Seals who delivered an impactful speech the week prior outlining the last 400 years of black oppression in America. Seals reiterated his point about the long history of racial injustice in the U.S. “From 1619 to now, it has been slavery, chattel, segregation, mass incarceration.”
Seals went on to announce that he wants to run for local office.
“We do not have enough queer black and brown people on our common council, we do not have enough of them in our local government. I’m committed to finding out why and how I can be on common council and be in local government and how I can f*cking work with you. I want to work for you,” he said.
Other speakers included Catherine Thrasher-Carroll and her daughter Maddie who both spoke about racism in the Ithaca City School District, Travis Brooks from GIAC, local performer Rochelle Matthews and several others.
Speeches lasted for about three hours before the crowd took to the streets for a brief march around downtown.
Sunday’s event is set to be a recurring one every Sunday for the immediate future at 2 p.m. at the Bernie Milton Pavilion on the Ithaca Commons.