Marches in Randolph, Bethel signal a sustained push for racial equality

  • Bryon Meyers, of Lyndon, Vt., marches at the center of a crowd of protesters through Randolph, Vt., Saturday, June 13, 2020, as energy behind a movement to end police violence against black people continues nearly three weeks after the death of George Floyd sparked protests. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Hanna Manning, 12, stepped outside as her mother Kim Davis remained in the doorway of their Randolph, Vt., home to watch protesters calling for systemic change to end racial injustice march past Saturday, June 13, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Zi Booska, 19, of Randolph, left, hugs organizer Brittney Malik, 22, right, of Colchester, after speaking to the crowd at a Black Lives Matter protest in Randolph, Vt., Saturday, June 13, 2020. Both attended Randolph Union High School. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

  • Makayla Nichols, of Pittsfield, listens to the names being read of those from the community of black, indigenous and people of color, who have died as a result of police violence, during a protest in Randolph, Vt., on Saturday, June 13, 2020. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News Photographs — James M. Patterson

  • Travon Groves, of Randolph, led a crowd of protesters in a chant of “No justice, no peace - no racist police,” as they marched through the village of Bethel, Vt. Saturday, June 13, 2020. The march stretched two miles from the village band stand to the Vermont State Police barracks in Royalton where protesters then laid on the ground for 8 minutes, 46 seconds, the amount of time Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on the kneck of George Floyd before he died in police custody. Lt. Barb Kessler, of the Vermont State Police, right, attended the rally and walked with protesters. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to Valley News photographs — James M. Patterson

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/13/2020 9:51:10 PM
Modified: 6/13/2020 9:51:08 PM

RANDOLPH — For Janea Hudson and Brittney Malik, both 22, growing up in this town in central Vermont brought with it a sense of discomfort at being some of the only black faces in their school and community.

On Saturday, they and other people of color helped translate that sense of discomfort into a march with a message: Though the fight for justice and recognition is long, they have taken up that fight and aim to see it through. On an afternoon bookended by a march here and another from Bethel to the Vermont State Police barracks in Royalton, marchers demonstrated that they were digging in for a long battle for equal treatment under the law.

“I think that with everything being remote, with quarantines, people have time to invest in thinking about this,” Hudson said after the Randolph protest.

As the demonstrators walked past Bethany Church, a United Church of Christ congregation opposite Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall, the Rev. Kimberly McKerley stood out front and cheered. She sees the ongoing waves of protest as a generational struggle, but one that her generation has to help finish.

“I think mostly we owe it to the young adults in our community and our world,” she said. “Their energy and their passion and their witness are going to get this done.”

“I think it’s also important to say that this is opening some important conversations between generations and between institutions, and that’s important, too,” McKerley said.

The march was shepherded along by people who had been trained in “de-escalation” or as marshals and wore yellow or orange armbands. Moving up both sides of Main Street and chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “No Justice, No Peace,” the marchers turned to walk past the town’s small police station and town hall before following another side street to a town recreation field that typically hosts elementary school soccer games.

Although the march proceeded peacefully, not everyone appreciated it or its message.

“You guys are just making this all difficult,” one man shouted at the demonstrators from behind the wheel of a pickup that was held up by the march as it moved across the street to the recreation field.

At the field, the march’s young organizers took to the microphone to talk about their experiences as people of color.

“It’s a little too late, but it’s about time we talked about this,” Malik, a Randolph Union High School graduate who now lives in Colchester, Vt., told the protesters, who had gathered in a wide arc on the soccer field. “We are calling for the end of police brutality, now!”

The feeling that the demonstrators were engaged in a long struggle — but were seeing a moment when progress is possible — was a common theme among speakers who were old enough to have children of their own.

Tabitha Moore, president of the Rutland chapter of the NAACP, noted that her organization has been around for 111 years. “We’re still asking for the same things we were asking for 111 years ago. We are not the problem,” she said.

She urged the marchers to work with people of color.

“There’s not a black or brown person who lives here who isn’t going to be doing this work,” she said, encouraging those present to run for local office and volunteer for local boards. “If they’re staffed with the same old people, you’re going to get the same old result.”

Under gray, chilly skies, Malik asked the protesters to lie face down for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time a police officer knelt on the neck of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis, the primary event that touched off the weeks of protest. Most of the 250 or so present laid down, while some knelt or stood with arms raised.

In Bethel, an afternoon protest grew into a march by around 250 people, with little overlap with the Randolph marchers, from the town bandstand to the Vermont State Police’s Royalton Barracks. The protesters took up the eastbound lane of Route 107 over the 2-mile march, a distance that symbolized the death of Ahmaud Arbery, a black man who was fatally shot on Feb. 23 while out for a run near his Georgia home; three white men face murder charges in that case.

Vermont State Police escorted the marchers, even as they chanted “abolish the police.” Officers knelt with protesters, and Lt. Barb Kessler laid down on the pavement with them during 8 minutes, 46 seconds of silence in honor of George Floyd. March organizers thanked her.

“You support the community and the community supports you,” Kessler said after the march. “We’re all in this together.”

Protests have spread across the Upper Valley since Floyd’s death. Along with previous vigils or protests in Hanover, South Royalton and Bethel, nearly 100 people gathered Monday at Broad Street Park in Claremont, according to New Hampshire Public Radio.

And more than 100 people have joined vigils in Meriden each of the past two weeks, according to organizers, an exponential growth from the handful of people who have been marking the peaceful weekly protests for the past three years.

Moore sees a moment of possibility in the current protests.

“The climate in the United States is changing,” she said in an interview.

For years, racism was easier for white people to ignore, but President Donald Trump has made it so overt that it can’t be denied, she said.

“It’s much more difficult to deny than it was in 2016,” Moore said.

“I am very, very happy that the young black people of this community put this together,” said Steve Carr, who is in the process of moving to Randolph, where his partner’s family is from. He attended the protest with his partner’s mother, Josie Carruthers, of East Randolph. Carr, who is African American, spoke to the crowd about having grown up poor and at risk in Brooklyn, N.Y., and about how being stopped and beaten by the police was a commonplace event. He said he was proud to see a younger generation of protesters take up the cause.

“I feel it’s time that people start to listen to the young,” he said. “It’s the same fight over and over again. None of these fights and none of these protests ever really stopped.”

While many of the protesters who turned out Saturday fit Vermont’s older and whiter demographics, the young people of color who organized the Randolph event have taken the lead.

“I think that definitely my lifestyle will be different,” Hudson said. “I have been kind of blind to things that have been racist for a long time.”

“If I have to keep protesting, I will.”

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

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