By Lorentz Hansen, Copy Editor, and Julia Guerrein, Editor-in-Chief
On Tuesday evening, Babe’s Bar, located in Bethel, VT, hosted a vigil for George Floyd. Floyd, a 46-year-old Black man, was killed by police officers on May 25 in Minneapolis, Minnesota after several officers pinned him to the ground with their knees on his neck for over eight minutes. The vigil also honored other recent victims of race-based violence, including Breonna Taylor, Nina Pop, and Tony McDade.
The vigil, which lasted approximately one hour, was planned and announced the day before it occurred. The turnout exceeded the organizers’ expectations, with more than 100 attendees spread out in the bar’s parking lot and along Bethel’s Main Street. The organizers provided face masks, flowers, and educational resources for attendees.
The vigil followed a week of nationwide protests over police brutality and police killings of Black people in the United States. Organizers in Burlington held a vigil just a few days prior to honor the victims of police brutality and race-based violence.
David Phair, owner of Hustle and Loyalty Records, co-hosted the event with the owners of Babe’s Bar, Owen Daniel-McCarter and Jesse Plotsky.
Phair, who grew up in Vermont, shared some of his experiences as a Black man living in Vermont, which is over 94 percent white.
“So, when I first came back to Vermont after living in Connecticut for 10 years, my initial motive was to help fight the drugs,” Phair said. “I never thought that I would be standing here today fighting for my life. Fighting for what should have been given to me thirty years ago, but yet was taken away from me over four-hundred years ago.”
He continued: “We [people of color] have an obligation to teach the people around us what we are here fighting for. The rest of you [white people] have an obligation to take that message and teach the next person. That is the first step in making change.”
Phair thanked the crowd for showing up, and described what it meant to him to see white members of his community standing with him. Phair also acknowledged the presence of local and state police officers at the event, and thanked them for their attendance and support for the vigil.
Daniel-McCarter shared his own experience arriving to the area as a queer man, and thanked Phair for reaching out and making him feel welcome before he and Plotsky moved to Vermont.
“Please, let’s talk and continue mobilizing and supporting the folks who have been saying clearly, loudly for a very long time what is needed, and let’s just do it,” said Daniel-McCarter.
The vigil hosts shared poetry and music, and led the group in saying the names of the victims being honored. Attendees processed to the memorial and left candles, flowers, artwork, and signs.
Phair and Daniel-McCarter encouraged attendees to continue showing up for people of color and working to dismantle their own biases. The vigil ended with Daniel-McCarter reading “Affirmation,” a poem by Assata Shakur, from her book, Assata: An Autobiography. The memorial has remained outside the bar to continue honoring the victims.
The organizers intend to host another event honoring victims of police brutality and race-based violence within the next week. Details are forthcoming.