Ava Baeza leads a call-and-response chant against police violence in downtown Rockland on June 19 as diners watch from a curbside patio.
Ava Baeza leads a call-and-response chant against police violence in downtown Rockland on June 19 as diners watch from a curbside patio.
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Rockland closed a section of its Main Street to vehicle traffic at 5 p.m. on June 19 as part of a plan to boost downtown business, and peaceful demonstrators immediately occupied it, calling for an end to police violence against people of color.

More than 100 protesters, most dressed in black and wearing facemasks, filled the roadway in observance of Juneteenth, the anniversary of the last slaves learning of their emancipation after the Civil War. The gathering, organized by Angela McIntyre, alternated between silent vigil and impassioned protest.

Twice, participants lay prone on the street with their hands clasped behind their backs for 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time that George Floyd was held, fatally, in the same position by a Minneapolis Police officer in May.

March leaders used megaphones to lead call-and-response chants of “Black lives matter,” “No justice, no peace; no racist police,” “I can’t breathe,” and other rallying cries of the national movement for racial justice, in which protesters are demanding an overhaul, or dismantling, of traditional police departments.

The march started in Chapman Park and traveled north on Main Street. A smaller number of casual visitors to the temporary downtown pedestrian mall skirted the protest along the sidewalks. Pairs of Rockland Police officers stood on most corners during the protest.

Stopping just south of Limerock Street, the demonstrators appealed to diners seated in makeshift patios outside Rock Harbor Pub and Brewery and In Good Company restaurant, asking them to join the protest. None did. Main Street remained closed to vehicle traffic until 11 p.m.

The combination of protests and shuttered businesses stood in stark contrast to past years when the city closed Main Street for its annual Summer Solstice Celebration. Juneteenth made an appearance at the street party in 2010 and 2011 when Jonathan Frost hosted a celebration on Winter Street that, according to an account in the Courier-Gazette, “combined uplifting music, historic photography and readings from great African-American writers.”