Two crowds from both sides of the Hudson River merged as one Saturday in a show of unity and the search for justice.

Organized by local youth in Columbia and Greene counties, the Juneteenth Freedom March across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge sought to give voice to communities of color and others who ally with them.

“I have been living here for two years. I used to live in the Bronx. I moved here for the scenery, the nice people and the open air,” said David Quituisaca, of Catskill. “In the two years I have lived here, I have been harassed by ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement], I have been given shady looks by some of my neighbors, and aside from the people I know, sometimes I don’t feel very welcome here, and I think enough is enough. I think it is time for Greene County to wake up.”

His brother, Michael Quituisaca, had a similar message.

“Enough is enough,” he said. “I definitely believe in the Black Lives Matter movement.”

Protesters on the Greene County side of the river gathered near the state Bridge Authority office, and those on the Columbia County side met at the traffic roundabout.

The goal was to voice protesters’ discontent with what they termed systemic racism and actions of police in the wake of the death of George Floyd in Minnesota and a string of deaths of black people at the hands of police.

Justice Brantley co-organized the event on the Greene County side.

“This is a peaceful protest. We have to stand up for what is right and what is wrong,” Brantley said.

Marchers made their way across the bridge and were undeterred as temperatures soared into the 90s. They carried signs, chanted slogans and played musical instruments as drivers honked and cheered them on as they drove across the bridge.

“I am here today because my life matters, my family’s life matters,” said Hudson 2nd Ward Alderwoman Tiffany Garriga. “We are black and Hispanic, and we are tired of being pushed. We are tired of being used and we are tired of being profited off of. It is about time we were recognized.”

As marchers from both Columbia and Greene counties met at the center of the bridge, they chanted “Fund black futures, Black Lives Matter, defund the police.”

Barbara Mason, of Catskill, thinks society is moving backwards — and that racism is worse now than it was in her parents’ generation.

“Black lives do matter. Racism is a sin and they really need to stop this mess,” Mason said. “It is time for us to join together as one. We as black people have had enough.”

The event was organized by local youth in the Twin Counties, Catskill Village President Vincent Seeley said.

“For me, it’s more important that the younger folks in the community are rising up right now,” Seeley said. “We just got invited to this. We didn’t say we need to do something on the bridge to bring Hudson and Catskill together. The young folks in our community thought of this, set it up and did everything to make this a beautiful day in Catskill.”

Maquera Roach, one of the organizers from Hudson, said it was time for people to make their voices heard.

“We need to take a stand and let people know we matter just as much as anyone else, and it’s important to acknowledge that,” Roach said. “Until black lives matter, all lives won’t matter.”

The march was held the day after Juneteenth, the holiday that honors the end of slavery.

“As slavery is the father of racism, we must continue to speak out and educate ourselves, and fight systematic racism,” said Fabian Rose-Bernard, of Catskill.

He also urged the crowd to be sure to vote to make their voices heard.

Bringing about change is about more than a march across a bridge — it’s about being involved and staying involved over the long term, said Tina Martinez, of Athens.

“I want people to know this isn’t anything new, and it shouldn’t take the slow-motion murder of a black man to wake people up and make them decide to look because for those of us who are minorities, this is our America,” Martinez said. “I want people to remember this isn’t just a hashtag and it isn’t just a fad. If you are going to show up, you cannot show up and then melt away, because allies are not allies if they melt away and leave you swinging in the breeze. This is a life-changing moment in history, and this is the moment to say you are in it for the long haul. Use your privilege that way.”

Johnson Newspapers 7.1

(3) comments

Citycountryfamily

I am concerned about the undercutting of part of the marchers’ message because of the way you frame it: “...protestors’ discontent with what they termed systemic racism...” Systemic racism is part of the national conversation right now, not a fringe term coined for the march. We all need to become familiar with the entrenched, uncomfortable reality of the racist basis of American systems of education, finance, social welfare and beyond. I was glad to be part of the hundreds of people who met in Hudson and walked over to join with the Catskill marchers at this lovely event - I wish you had photos of us stretching across the bridge and our mix of races, ages, sexes. It was a beautiful display of community members standing up for and next to eachother, hopefully for the long haul.

scottmyers

To be blunt... while Kamal Johnson enacted change in Hudson, Catskill has not. Kudos Kamal! The bridge to Hudson needs to now come into action. Defunding police is more urgent here. The Village of Catskill Police takes a full half of our $4 million budget. The Community Center is unfunded.

Of course there’s that new insane $90 million debt obligation for the county, the unjustifiable new jail and Sheriff’s Office.

The Village of Catskill management allowed bullying by the County. They bent over to permit the demolition of 80 Bridge Street. Vincent Seeley: “We had to. They’re psychotic. If we didn’t they’d retaliate.”

As Jamal and the other speakers emphasized, the rally is the beginning. Thank you for your leadership Mayor Johnson. Now for this place. Now’s the time.

FrostyIndependence

Fantastic!!! Feels like change, for the good of all, is coming! Gratitude to those who showed up for this and grateful it went all went down without a hitch.

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