Massive Crowd Converges on New Rochelle City Hall in Wake of George Floyd Murder

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Thousands of New Rochelle residents marched to City Hall tonight for a rally held in the wake of the murder of George Floyd by four now-former Minneapolis police officers on May 25th.

The rally was organized by the Next Step Forward Initiative which is comprised of up and coming leaders in New Rochelle’s Black community: Jamaal Gill (pictured above), Malik Gill, Rakeem Callands, Vaughn Parham, Renny Woodlin and Alex Fearon.

LINK: Next Step Forward Initiative on Facebook

It was by far the largest crowd this reporter has ever scene in New Rochelle for any event of any kind — other than on the Fourth of July — and an impressive logistical feat which went off without a hitch (except a torrential downpour at the very end of the evening).

The evening began at 6 pm from two different points of the City: a vigil held in the parking lot outside the Remington Boys & Girls Club and a march which began from the parking lot at Beth El synagogue. As more than a thousand people marched south from the Wykagyl section of New Rochelle’s North End, another thousand stood silent for one-half of 8 minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time Derek Chauvin kept his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck, according to the criminal complaint filed against Chauvin.

Speakers at the vigil included NRPD Detective (retired) Tim McKnight, his son of the same name who works for the New Rochelle Muncipal Housing Authority and is a candidate for school board, Daniel Bonnet of WestCop and several others. Local officials like Mayor Noam Bramson, Westchester County Clerk Tim Idoni, and U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel and Hall of Fane pitcher Mariano Rivera were also on hand.

The group from the Wykagyl area was led by Damon Maher of the Westchester County Board of Legislators.

After the vigil, organizers directed the crowd to gather in Lincoln Park as a staging area before marching to City Hall. The large crowd, swelled by late arrivals, proceeded down Lincoln Avenue to North Avenue where police officers held up traffic so the marchers could safely proceed towards City Hall.

By the time the leading edge of the Lincoln Park group reached City Hall the Wykagyl group was waiting to greet them. A huge, euphoric cheer rippled down North Avenue as the two groups met. After brief remarks, the organizers moved to the top of the steps in front of City Hall and used a portable PA system to encourage the crowd to spread out across the entire lawn in front of City Hall.

The entire lawn was soon filled to capacity but overflowed as a seemingly endless line of marchers from Lincoln Park continued towards the area. The sidewalks were filled and still more people stood on the sidewalk on the other side of North Avenue.

At the main event, a series of nearly two dozen speakers made clear that this was a truly grassroots events organized primarily by young black men from New Rochelle, most born and raised in the City, many from several generations of family in New Rochelle. No elected officials spoke. There were no “outsiders”. Just members of the community seeking to bring New Rochelle together and be heard.

Some of the speakers spoke from prepared written remarks, others spoke extemporaneously. Some were loud and angry, some were soft-spoken and thoughtful. Some of the language was a bit rough. Some spoke to current national issues, some spoke to historical issues, some sought to provide context, some sought to speak to the white audience who had joined them for the moment, most spoke about their hopes for the future.

Rather than quote the speakers or describe then tone and tenor of their remarks we put together a video montage which includes excerpts from most of the speakers.

I should mention that several people expressed anger and concern with this reporter at the event and repeatedly admonished me to to “tell it right” which I took to mean to report on the event from their perspective. I was called out by name several times, loudly, notably by speaker Rachel Motley, a Student at Howard University and 2018 New Rochelle High School graduate who grew up in the Hollows.

Ms. Motley expressed disapproval of my past reporting on former New Rochelle High School Reginald Richardson. I have addressed that separately but I want to address a point she made more than once: “I need you to see the pain”.

I have not attempted to do that here for the simple reason that I do not know nor will I pretend to know how any of the speakers feel about the murder of George Floyd or the many other people who died as a result of police brutality or any of the other topics raised by speakers so how could I tell that right.

What I do know and can report is that, as the video above shows, many of the speakers spoke in angry tones, some came across as aggressive, some used dramatic images and foul language, some appeared to endorse or even threaten violence, some displayed a confrontational, embattled demeanor. Some were very loud, with or without the PA system. It did occur to me that quite a few people from the North End were probably a bit uncomfortable.

As it happens I was only a few feet from the speakers so I was able to closely observe each person not only as they spoke but when they paused or turned away or dropped their head. I was able too see what many of those clapping and chanting and cheering on the lawn of City Hall could not see. While I heard what they hear — a lot of anger or hostility or defiance — I did not see anger or hostility or defiance.

While every speaker had their own style and tone and body language and each was different in his or her own way there was one common thread that bound every speaker – a deep and profound sadness.

Whatever they might say or do, no matter how tough they talked, underneath it all was that unmistakable sadness.

I do not know where that sadness comes from but it struck me as the sadness of standing up in front of thousands of people and having to explain what its like to endure a lifetime of having to explain yourself to people who never have to explain themselves.

That is about as close as I can come to “telling it right” so let me leave it there.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I was not recording the entire 2.5 hours so I missed capturing video of Ms. Motley’s initial remarks which were directed at me. If any reader has that video I would like to obtain a copy and publish it.

18 thoughts on “Massive Crowd Converges on New Rochelle City Hall in Wake of George Floyd Murder”

  1. Robert Cox, when reporting, you need to put your biases to the side. A big problem in the reporting industry.

  2. In to response to this article some of the things the reporter has said is pointing a negative light on what was being said. “Angry, Aggressive, foul language”, I see how your trying to twist this and it’s NOT going to work what you WONT do is assume or try to portray that what language or tone that was used from the truth tellers was done in a negative light or nor were they promoting violence. They are speaking from a point of pain and tiredness that has been going on for centuries!!!. NO VIOLENCE WAS EVER SHOWN NOR WAS IT EVER SAID by anyone speaking. What went on was a peaceful protest and every speaker spoke from their OWN experience/ perspective with a voice of voicing the injustice that still happens today and steps to take on coming together and bringing justice.

    1. Some speakers were NOT angry?

      That is not true. They were.

      Speakers did not endorse violence?

      That is not true. Some did.

      Some speakers did not use foul language?

      That is not true. Some did.

      There is video. My reporting is accurate.

  3. Yes I can read, can you do math? Quite a few translates to more than one. Do we really care if public officials are a little uncomfortable? The other post seems to say that public officials should be uncomfortable and want to make changes in our community. Change is not comfortable. But I still dont see the interviews and addresses of those north end residents that had such a problem with a peaceful, yet passionate protest. Anger is not always aggressive and aggressivr doesnt always mean violent. If you cannot feel it from the point of view of the speaker, you should not try to put a description to the emotion. What we need in this community is solidarity and support not more decisiveness

    1. Reading is one thing, comprehension is another.

      From my vantage point next to the speakers looking out on the crowd it was my observation that quite a few people from the North End were probably a bit uncomfortable”. That you were not uncomfortable does not change what I observed.

      It is not binary, right?

      To your other point, I wrote:

      “Rather than quote the speakers or describe then tone and tenor of their remarks we put together a video montage which includes excerpts from most of the speakers.”

  4. Great job on all that attenfed and spoke the truth and shared their feelings. Sending you all my love and prayers and support to one and all New Rochelle people.

  5. It is highly inaccurate to say that a large piece of New Rochelle’s north end were uncomfortable. What should be uncomfortable is not the protests or the angry feelings or words,but the fact that you just grouped an entire area of people into one person’s feelings. As a resident of the north end I welcomed the protests that marched past my home, I stood on my lawn in solidarity as did many of my neighbors, so please end the north end vs. South end bullshit. We are not any different then anyone else in this town.

    1. It is highly inaccurate for you to say I said “that a large piece of New Rochelle’s north end were uncomfortable.”

      You can read right?

      What I observed is what I wrote about. Here is the actual quote:

      “quite a few people from the North End were probably a bit uncomfortable.”

      One North End resident who was there wrote today, “I disagreed with a few of the comments, but that’s okay; a little discomfort among public officials is probably a good and necessary thing at this moment.” (Noam Bramson)

  6. As a home owner in Wykagyl (the neighborhood through which this march proceeded), I can tell you that I have never experienced such an earth-shakingly powerful feeling of positive energy as this HUGE crowd marched past my home…it was truly electric. Their voices powerfully reverberated through the neighborhood like the roar of a giant lion, as countless numbers of my neighbors stood in front of their homes adding their voices and waving their arms in passionate support. It was a moment that I’m SURE will never be forgotten by those who were fortunate to experience it. The thought that “black lives matter” is being chanted in 2020 is heartbreaking….I think it is VERY important for all of us to keep our cameras ready to film any injustices we see, as we are all in this together. We must flush out the illnesses that plaque our society, shining light on atrocities, so that the decent part of our society may stamp them out, together.

  7. What this seems like to me is you refusing to use your platform to display any sort of perspective of the black community but you will do exactly that for people from the north end. The least you could do to “tell it right” was interview people of color attending the protest, the protests organizers, or literally anyone within a 10 foot radius of you at the time but you chose to only interview our white mayor.

    1. No idea why you think I interviewed the Mayor. I did not. Try reading the article and not making things up the complaining about what you made up.

  8. Bob I attended this event and was very close to the speakers and overall appreciate your detailed and and sensitive reporting of this event. I do want to say that I disagree with your supposition that many people from the “North End” were made “uncomfortable” by any of the anger, noise level, very occasional uses of profanity (which the speaker who used those words apologized for) or any other content of the speeches. As you pointed out very well in your remarks about the sadness you saw, all of us should be able to understand where these emotions comes from. Moreover, I was there with my 14 year old daughter, and she has heard me curse, be angry, sad and be loud, I wasn’t at all uncomfortable with her seeing displays of this real emotion and passion, that’s part of why I was glad she wanted to attend and be close to the speakers.

    I’m not trying to attack you, again, i appreciate your overall reporting of this event. But these types of comments can reveal unconscious biases…implying that people of color are more “comfortable” with these types of displays of emotion than white people. Not saying that was what you intended, but as I’m sure as a reporter you would agree, words matter, and part of our task moving forward is to be extremely careful with our language.

    Again, thanks for covering this important event.

    1. I did not say ALL I said “quite a few people from the North End were probably a bit uncomfortable”.

      From my vantage and conversations later what I said was accurate.

      Here is one North End resident who expressed being uncomfortable with some of the remarks. In fact his overall description sounds a lot like mine.

      “The entire event had a powerful authenticity, with speeches, almost all delivered by graduates of New Rochelle High School, that were at turns moving, angry, sad, loving, defiant, uplifting, hopeful, and raw. I disagreed with a few of the comments, but that’s okay; a little discomfort among public officials is probably a good and necessary thing at this moment, and it was important for me to be present to hear, see, listen, and learn. Overall, I felt very proud of our city.” (Noam Bramson)

  9. I was birn ans raised in New Rochelle and it has had its share of Police Brutality.

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