Another Day Of Activism After George Floyd’s Death, As The State Continues Plans To Reopen | Connecticut Public Radio

Another Day Of Activism After George Floyd’s Death, As The State Continues Plans To Reopen

Jun 7, 2020

A caravan of cars that began in Stamford and stopped in four other towns before making its way to the state Capitol in Hartford on Sunday was among dozens of rallies, demonstrations and protests over the weekend after the recent death of George Floyd. 

The rally that ended in Hartford was organized by black women activists and legislators and CT Caravan 4 Justice to peacefully demonstrate against racism and the systemic abuse of power by law enforcement in black communities. It was also an opportunity to remember and highlight black women like Breonna Taylor who have died at the hands of police.

“Can a sister sleep?” asked Janice Fleming Butler, founder of Voices of Women of Color. The crowd shouted back, “No!” 

Rallies and protests against racism and police brutality picked up worldwide shortly after George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, died after a white police officer used his knee to pin Floyd’s neck to the ground in an attempted arrest two weeks ago. 

Four police officers involved in the arrest were fired, and all have been charged with crimes.

Activists said they want justice for Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician who in March was shot to death by Louisville police officers as they raided her home after midnight. No charges have yet been filed in her case. 

Janice Fleming Butler of the Voices of Women of Color speaks as the Caravan 4 Justice gathers at the north side of the Connecticut state Capitol.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

Butler also called for legislative changes in Connecticut. 

“We demand that the legislators ensure that independent reviews on police officers happen,” Butler said. “We demand that you modify the standards in which officers are prosecuted in the state of Connecticut.” 

State Sen. Marilyn Moore, a co-leader of Sunday’s rally, pledged to represent and give a voice to black residents and communities as a legislator, but said, “I cannot do this forever,” and she called on young people to “pick up the mantle.” 

“We have to build them up, we have to train them and we have to support them,” she said. “Us older people need to step back and let these young people lean in, support them, educate them, raise the money for them, and get behind them to do what it is they need to do.”

Four generations of the McGee, Lott, Gousse, Durham and Grace family pose during the Caravan 4 Justice gathering at the Connecticut state Capitol.
Credit Joe Amon / Connecticut Public

This was the second day of weekend protests. In New London on Saturday, protesters had similar demands, calling for money to be moved from the police budget to the city’s schools. 

New London resident Fred Weaver said seeing the sustained and growing protest across the world since Floyd’s death two weeks ago makes him hopeful.

“I think people are finally starting to wake up and see what the problem really is. It’s my life, it’s all the people in my family’s life, friends, the people I grow up with. I’ve seen a lot of injustice to myself and the people I care about. I just want it to stop.”

COVID-19 Numbers Keep Positive Trend

Officials have expressed concerns that those protesting are exposing themselves to an increased risk of being infected with COVID-19. But, in the short term, the numbers are still trending positive.

The state reported a flattening of hospitalizations related to COVID-19. The number of patients currently hospitalized with the disease remained at 333 Sunday -- the same number that was reported Saturday. 

The state reported 150 additional cases of COVID-19 Sunday, bringing the total to 43,968, according to public health data. Sixteen more people in the state died with symptoms associated with COVID-19. In total, 4,071 COVID-19-related deaths have been reported in Connecticut.            

Settlement In ACLU Suit To Protect Prison Population From COVID-19 

The Connecticut ACLU announced the resolution of a lawsuit it filed in April against the state on behalf of people incarcerated in Connecticut’s prisons and jails. The state Department of Correction agreed to follow procedures to reduce the risk of people in prisons and jails of contracting COVID-19, according to a statement released Sunday by the ACLU.  

Elderly and medically vulnerable people who are incarcerated will be prioritized for release programs under the agreement, according to the ACLU. The Department of Correction will identify for possible release people 65 years or older and those who are considered at high risk. 

Inmates who have tested positive -- or are presumed positive -- for COVID-19 will not lose housing status, program access, work assignments or phone privileges under the agreement, the ACLU said.

The Department of Correction agreed to provide inmates with two clean and functioning masks, distribute antiseptic cleaning supplies and ensure inmates have access to soap and running water for showers, even if they are positive for COVID-19, the ACLU said.

State officials said they are pleased with the resolution. 

“This has been an unprecedented time in our country and I am most proud of how our staff and leaders have selflessly performed their essential duties to ensure the health and safety of those entrusted to our care,” Rollin Cook, commissioner of the Department of Correction, said in a statement. 

The ACLU of Connecticut said it will continue to push for the release of more inmates as the pandemic continues. 

“Because this agreement falls short of our goal of widespread releases, the ACLU of Connecticut remains committed to using every remaining advocacy tool at our disposal to push for people who are incarcerated to be safely, thoughtfully released from prisons and jails,” said David McGuire, the organization’s executive director.

A federal judge must still approve the settlement.

Phase 2 Reopening Regulations Released

With Phase 2 of Connecticut's reopening efforts set for June 17, the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development released new details about how indoor dining, amusement parks, hotels, gyms, movie theaters, tattoo parlors and a wide range of other businesses can welcome people back. 

  • Amusement parks must have a plan for social distancing at rides and attractions, including leaving empty rows and seats and encouraging one-way flow of visitors. The snaking, maze-style lines to get on rides will be reconfigured to avoid visitors passing one another face to face. 
  • At hotels, minibars, ice machines and coffee makers will be taken out of rooms this summer. Room service will be left outside guests’ doors. Hotel employees will not be allowed in guests’ rooms when the guests are also in the room. 
  • Restaurants will open with 50% of their indoor seating capacity allowed and indoor waiting areas closed. Buffets, salad bars and any self-service area will remain closed.
  • Indoor museums, zoos and aquariums are set to reopen under the mandates of 50% capacity or 6 feet of distancing, whichever is smaller. Interactive exhibits can open as long as they are regularly cleaned.
  • Indoor recreation, including bowling alleys and movie theaters, will welcome visitors back with social distancing regulations in place and cleaning of equipment, like bowling balls and golf putters, after each use. 
  • Personal services: Residents looking to get their nails done or waiting to get a new tattoo will get their chance. Towels and linens will need to be cleaned to commercial grade and laundered between customers. Work stations will need to be sanitized with medical-grade disinfectant before and after each use.
  • Gyms: After nearly three months, gyms will reopen. Gyms and health clubs will have to sterilize equipment and arrange layout to promote distancing of 6 to 12 feet. Classes can be held at 50% capacity of the space.
  • Libraries will quarantine returned books for 48 hours. 

The state says employees in all industries will have to go through self-certification training, and businesses will have to name a program administrator before reopening. Employers will have to keep logs of employees’ hours to promote contact tracing, and staggered shifts and breaks are encouraged. 

Residents are urged to call 211 to report any businesses not complying with state regulations. 

Connecticut Public Radio’s Harriet Jones contributed to this report.