HUDSON — As the nation continues to reel from protests that have turned into violent skirmishes and riots, Hudson had a peaceful night Sunday following a demonstration attended by 300 people, organized by Mayor Kamal Johnson.
The rally provided local residents the opportunity to voice their frustrations following the death of George Floyd, 46, an African-American man, while in police custody in Minneapolis. A video taken by a bystander appears to show a white former police officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeling on Floyd’s neck. Floyd later died, sparking protests and riots worldwide, including close to home in Albany.
Chauvin and the other three officers in the video were fired, and on Friday, Chauvin was charged with second-degree murder and manslaughter.
There were no violent incidents and no arrests in Hudson, either during the rally or in the hours that followed, Hudson Police Chief L. Edward Moore said Monday.
“I am so proud of Hudson — we had a nice, quiet evening last night,” Moore said Monday.
At the rally, held at Promenade Hill Park on Sunday, Johnson did not impose a curfew, as other cities have done, but requested that Hudson residents remain indoors at nightfall.
They complied, Johnson said Monday morning.
“I requested that people stay indoors around 8:30 p.m. and have a quiet night. This was completely voluntary and a request — and people were inside and it was quiet,” Johnson said.
Protesters carried signs and wore face masks as a precaution against the coronavirus.
“I think we had about 300 or so protesters. There were no confrontations with police,” Moore said Monday. “We did not have any problems or arrests. Our purpose was to provide safety and security for people who want to voice their opinions.”
Local residents heeded Johnson’s call for peace and for remaining indoors Sunday night, Moore said.
“People should be very proud of this city because we did not have any of the problems any of the other cities around us had,” he said.
The rally was organized to enable people to voice their opinion in a safe environment, Johnson said.
“Seeing what is going on around the nation and in our own region, I wanted to be proactive and get out in front of the issue,” Johnson said of organizing the demonstration. “For the community to feel safe, its leaders need to be on the front lines.”
Hudson Police Commissioner Peter Volkmann, who also spoke at the rally, said Monday that sparking a conversation and coming up with solutions through engagement between the police and the community was critical.
“[The rally] was an appropriate and a necessary opportunity for people to be heard. I was there to listen, to be a part of it, and I am here to move forward with the community,” Volkmann said.
Hudson police have undergone training to learn how to deal with people of different backgrounds, he said.
“They have had training and cultural sensitivity training, and now we are looking at ways we can enhance or review that type of training,” Volkmann said. “The wonderful part about Hudson is that there are many different cultural dynamics in a little city. For a police officer, we need to have understanding and have a conversation to better understand our cultural differences — we are America, and everyone is different. Hudson proves how so many different cultures can come together and work together, and sometimes have conversations that are uncomfortable, but necessary.”
Moore expressed confidence that an incident similar to what happened to George Floyd would not happen in Hudson.
“No one in the department condones that behavior and in our small department we know each other enough to know this would not happen in Hudson,” Moore said. “I don’t see this happening in our department because of the things we put in place to prevent something like this. We have good training, good hiring and good communication between city officials and the department, as well as interdepartmental communication.”
Hudson resident Bella Lugo said Sunday’s rally gave people who are frustrated and angry a chance to air their concerns.
“We need to stand up for people whose voices aren’t being heard,” Lugo said. “I want it to be a safe place for my nieces and nephews to be able to go outside and not be discriminated against because of the color of their skin.”
Protesters carried signs reading “Demand Justice Now,” “End Police Brutality,” No Justice, No Peace,” “End White Supremacy” and “Black Lives Matter,” among other messages.
Speaker Claire Cousin urged her fellow demonstrators to bring about change in society.
“We don’t have to lie down and take it, because we have the option to rise and show the rest of the nation what solidarity looks like,” Cousin said, adding that the Hudson Police Department is “not the worst,” but that there is “room for improvement.”
Johnson invited several young people to the microphone.
“So many people are wondering, why have fires and why loot? What is it going to change?” said Dezjuan Smith from the youth organization Kite’s Nest. “The way I see it is, for decades, black people and people of color have been asking and pleading for change. But now, after being left speechless by a horrific video that we all saw, I think now we can’t simply speak, we need to do. The best way to really make an impact is to show people that we matter, that everybody matters, and I feel like it is not just a race thing — it is a class thing. It is an oppression thing.”
Kenold Dorce, also from Kite’s Nest, wants people of color to have the rights they deserve.
“We shouldn’t have to fight for our rights. We should already have them,” he said. “And I think it is unfair that we have to do all this work and protest, and we all have to become activists because of this. But we need people to understand that we are the future and we have the capability to make a change.”
Salma Ibrahim asked to address the crowd as well, and said too many injustices have been committed.
“This country was built on the backs of slavery and genocide, and the victims have barely gotten an apology,” Ibrahim said. “It is 2020, and every other day we hear of a new person who is killed, and it sickens me.”