Protesters in Hartford, New Haven, Bridgeport, New London, and other parts of Connecticut joined a nationwide call for action Saturday following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody. The protests come as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to unfold -- one day after the Gov. Ned Lamont signed an executive order that further relaxes state restrictions related to the virus.
Protests Sweep The State
Demonstrators wearing masks gathered in Colt Park and Bushnell Park in Hartford Saturday and marched in the street to the State Capitol -- causing temporary delays for buses and traffic. The crowd leaving from Bushell Park marched by the Hartford Public Safety Complex on its way to the capitol. Demonstrators held signs to protest Floyd’s death, criticize police, brutality, and show unity.
Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin said in a statement that the protest was both powerful and peaceful.
In Bridgeport, protestors blocked the highway Saturday afternoon. The 27a off-ramps of I-95 South and North were closed and Route 25/Route 8 also faced closures, according to Connecticut State Police. The state police worked to reroute traffic.
"Your voice will be heard," the Connecticut State Police said in a tweet shortly after 5 p.m.
And, in New London, a rally was organized by Jinneka Jackson from Norwich.
“I just decided we needed action,” she said. “Facebook posts are not enough, we need to get involved.”
“Let’s take these ideas and actually implement them. What can we do to prevent a death, what can we do to have a better relationship with our police so that we’re not afraid?” she asked. “When I get pulled over, I’m afraid - what can we do to minimize that?”
Kamil Johnson, 17, from New London, said that protests matter.
“We have a voice, and if we don’t use it, nothing’s gonna happen,” he said. “Having all these people use their voice, it’s going to be heard one day.”
“Equality, that’s really it,” Johnson said. “That’s all the fight is for.”
And Nae-shawn Teague, 16, also from New London, said people who don’t live in minority communities can’t understand what he sees when he sees the video of Floyd’s death.
“There’s no way for them to understand it because they’re not around it, they don’t see it constantly,” Teague said. “Where they come from, they’re used to police being the good guys, their friends, they help them. But they’re not used to seeing police killing people for no reason, beating them, arresting them for no reason.”
New London Police Chief Peter Reichard was invited and addressed the crowd. He has condemned the actions of officer Derek Chauvin, who was charged in Floyd’s death. And Curtis K. Goodwin, a New London city councilor, said this is not a time to wait.
“We can’t just wait for there to be another black death or for there to be another murder,” Goodwin said. “We have to understand in order to effect change we have to make sure the tools and the resources are there for our youth, so that the next generation truly reflects the change that we put forth.”
“To be a poor person of color in America is a tough thing to do,” Goodwin said. “It is truly tough.”
Protests in Connecticut Saturday remained peaceful while looting and rioting has plagued protests in cities including Minneapolis and Atlanta. Minnesota officials announced Friday the former police officer who pinned Floyd under his knee while Floyd was in handcuffs would be charged with murder.
Gov. Lamont Signs Updated COVID-19 Executive Order
Meanwhile, Lamont signed an updated executive order Friday evening that relaxed some state COVID-19 restrictions. It’s the 47th order since he enacted emergency declarations.
Under the new order:
- Social gatherings can expand to 10 people inside and 25 people outside -- increasing the previous recommendation that groups stay at five people or less.
- Barber shops and hair salons are officially allowed to open Monday as long as they follow state regulations.
- Faith services can be held inside at 25 percent capacity of the space -- with a maximum of 100 people. Outdoor religious and worship services can have a maximum of 150 people if social distancing and face mask regulations are in effect.
There were 260 new cases of COVID-19 reported in Connecticut Saturday, according to public health data. Numbers released Saturday say 533 people are now hospitalized with COVID-19 in the state, a drop of 44 people since yesterday. Forty-four more people died with COVID-19 than yesterday, bringing the total to 3,912.
New Haven To Hold A Moment Of Silence Monday
New Haven leaders will hold two minutes of silence Monday in honor of the more than 100 city residents and 100,000 people nationwide with COVID-19 who have died. New Haven joins cities and worship communities around the country in the National Day of Mourning and Lament movement. New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker is asking residents -- along with faith and community leaders -- to observe two minutes of silence starting at 10 a.m. Monday.
“As individuals, residents of our City, and collectively as a nation, we need time to stop, reflect, pray, mourn, and honor the dead,” Elicker said in a statement Friday.
Several State Parks Reach Capacity
Saturday’s weather also brought people to Connecticut’s State Parks.
The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection announced several park closures after parking lots reached capacity.
As of Saturday afternoon, parks closed after they reached capacity included:
- Rocky Neck State Park in East Lyme
- Millers Pond State Park in Haddam
- Wadsworth Falls State Park in Middletown
- Lovers Leap State Park in New Milford
- Sherwood Island State Park in Westport
- Silver Sands State Park in Milford
- Southford Falls State Park in Southbury
- C.P. Huntington State Park in Newtown
Connecticut Supreme Court Special Term Starts Monday
The Connecticut Supreme Court will open its special term on Monday with cases argued remotely, the Judicial Department announced Friday. Eleven cases are scheduled for the special term set to end June 12.
The state supreme court has remained open through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this week, the Judicial Department announced that limited operations will resume at three courthouses previously, temporarily closed.
The three courthouses set to reopen on June 8 are:
- Middlesex Judicial District Courthouse in Middletown
- Geographical Area No. 19 Courthouse in Rockville
- Litchfield Judicial District Courthouse in Torrington
This will bring the total number of state courts open during the pandemic to 13. All other courts will remain closed.
“Our planning process will be deliberate and careful, guided by the desire to provide for the health and safety of everyone who works in or enters a courthouse,” Chief Court Administrator Patrick L. Carroll III said in a statement earlier this week.
Information from the Associated Press was included in this story.