Black Lives Matter banner went up over South Pleasant Street this morning
Barbara Love, former Amherst School Committee Chair and Professor Emeritus of Social Justice Education at UMass, told a crowd of 75 gathered in Amherst Town Hall that the Black Lives Matter movement is "Not a statement of value of other lives but simply our effort to make a statement that black lives matter, to contradict historical forces that have placed black lives in jeopardy."
She opened her presentation with "I'm so proud of Amherst, so proud to call it my home."
And closed with a vignette about driving back to Amherst late one night a few weeks ago and upon crossing the town line "I noticed my shoulders relaxing. I breathed a sigh of relief. I was feeling safe and secure because I was at home. I'm in Amherst."
Turning towards Amherst Police Chief Scott Livingstone she stated emphatically, "Thank you for creating a community where I can feel safe."
Chief Livingstone and Barbara Love embrace at Town Hall ceremony for Black Lives Matter
The two embraced at the close of her speech as the crowd broke into applause.
Standing room only crowd attended the event in the Town Room
For his part Chief Livingstone said he was approached at the Martin Luther King Breakfast back in January about the banner ceremony because folks did not want him or his department to feel like it was a statement against them.
Russ Vernon Jones (standing left), former Fort River School principal, help coordinate event. Representative Ellen Story (standing center) and Dave Ziomek (standing right) also in attendance
He told the crowd that would have never even have occurred to him. He instantly volunteered to do whatever he could to help make it happen and even wondered why it took so long.
In closing the Chief Livingstone read from the department Mission Statement that was written by his officers over six years ago when he first became Chief:
"We value and are grateful for the diversity of our community and the confidence they have placed in us. We strive to protect the safety, rights, and property of every person in the town of Amherst.
We are committed to the enforcement of the laws, preservation of order and improving the quality of life for our community. We do so in partnership with our community, while holding ourselves to the highest professional and ethical standards."
First Congregational Church (adjacent to Amherst Police Station)
Unitarian Church town center