In solidarity with ‘black lives’ protesters around the nation, a group estimated at 50 to 75 people gathered on Main Street, Ridgefield, on Sunday and marched and chanted with signs: “Silence is compliance.” “Black lives matter.”

“In response to the continued issues of racial injustice occurring in this country, and in memorial to those lives lost at the hands of police in recent weeks, a compassionate and peaceful group will be gathering at Town Hall,” one of the marchers wrote Sunday and an inviting both First Selectman Rudy Marconi and Police Chief Jeff Kreitz to joint the demonstration.

The first selectman and the chief both showed up and took part.

“Both of us were mowing our lawns when we got notified and asked to come down,” Marconi said.

The demonstrators gathered outside town hall, marched down to the Lounsbury House where the Compassionate Ridgefield committee had put out flowers and signs that said “Racism Stops with Me” beside pictures of George Floyd, the black man whose death at the hand of a police officer in Minneapolis sparked protests and disorder in cities across the country, and Amaud Arbery, the black man who was shot in Georgia while out running.

The marchers returned to the village center on the other side of the street, past St. Stephen’s Church.

Diverse

The Ridgefield demonstrators against racism were a diverse group — at least for a town the U.S. Census puts at 92 percent white.

“It was mixed. It was definitely a racially mixed crowd,” Marconi said. “...There was a mix of races, religions, ethnicities.

“And very peaceful,” he added, “With tremendous support from passersby in their cars, honking their horns.”

One of the signs read: “I’m not black, but I see you! I’m not black, but hear you! I’m not black, but I see the injustice that you face daily! I’m not black, but I see your fear for your sons and even your daughters! I’m not black, but I will stand with you!”

Marconi said the town, through Compassionate Ridgefield — a movement that started a few years ago in response to racist and anti-Semetic graffiti and social media messages in town — would be planning some community discussions on race and tolerance.

“So, as a result we will be moving forward with some forums, with some opportunities to discuss Ridgefield as a community. Where are we in the category of racism? Is our town open? is it closed? Are we accepting?”

The demonstration was meant to peacefully acknowledge the racial justice issues behind protests and across the nation — some of which have turned violent — and was also partially in response to some of the back-and-forth on a Ridgefield Facebook page.

Facebook post

The Facebook discussion was at least partly prompted by a post from a young black woman looking back on her experiences as a student at Ridgefield High School with the A Better Chance (ABC) program. The post by Da’Misi Adetona — who sang Bridge Over Troubled Water at her 2015 RHS graduation ceremony — was initially taken down by a moderator of the Facebook page.

“Having been a member of this community, watching you all as I’ve grown up, having befriended a lot of your children, being in your homes, sitting in on your conversations, or reading them online — I’m embarrassed,” Da’Misi Adetona wrote her post. “Embarrassed by your passivity, your indifference & your silence.

“To feel unsupported by a community I’ve been a part of is hurtful. This is not me being confrontational, political or rude. These are feelings I’ve felt about you all since the age of 15,” she wrote.

“...Your children are watching and listening. If you don’t think this is a conversation to be had amongst yourselves, due to irrelevance — that in itself is a violent act.

“What is happening in the world we all live in affects us. As human beings, we need to be communicating, listening, learning, teaching. An assault on humanity is taking place nation&worldwide and you’d rather talk about nothing?

“...I want to encourage dialogue that is non-divisive, productive, well-thought, and articulate. I believe we are capable.”

Masks, over 25

Marconi said Monday that he thought there were about 50 people at the demonstration and march.

Marconi said he brought extra masks to the event — just in case.

“They were not needed,” he said. “Every single person was wearing a face covering.”

Whether marchers were wearing masks was a question that had been raised later on Facebook, where the issue of the gathering exceeding the governor’s order against groups of more than 25 was also brought up.

“I don’t think during that type of an event — an emotionally charged small gathering like that — is the time to tell people ‘Leave, there are too many of you.’ I wouldn’t do that,” Marconi said.