LITCHFIELD — Resident Harmony Tanguay is thinking about what’s next.
Following a recent successful demonstration they organized to show support for the Black Lives Matter movement, Tanguay and a group of friends are hoping their town will look at its own role in society and the way it treats others.
Part of Tanguay’s focus is on initiating change in Litchfield, which has a mostly white population, to talk about racism and how to understand it and learn from it.
“I’m a mom and an activist, and this is super-heartening, but I am taking this a day at a time,” Tanguay said. “ I started a Facebook group, and it has 150 people in it already, because people want to be involved.”
Protests and demonstrations showing support for the black community continue around Connecticut and the nation. The demonstrations are focused on the death of George Floyd while being restrained by Minneapolis police. His death has led to the numerous protests around the U.S. One police officer is facing murder charges and several others have been arrested.
Tanguay said she’s a little overwhelmed by the response to the recent event, to which about 300 people turned out. “I have tons of people reaching out to me, and I don’t even know what’s next,” she said.
“I’m in talks with (First Selectwoman Denise Raap) to hold a community conversation, and pick out some leaders to lead that conversation,” Tanguay said. “We had this great turnout, and people are contacting us, but I hope the people who are so passionate about protesting are going to show up for other things, to make systemic, concrete change in our town. That’s where I want people to do the work.”
The friends who organized the demonstration were deeply disturbed by Floyd’s death, Tanguay said.
“(The demonstration) came to be when my friend Kyra Hartnett texted me and Barbara Ellis, another Litchfield mom, and said, ‘We need to do something.’ We threw it together in less than 24 hours, and the outpouring was unbelievable,” she said. “We would have been happy if 10 people showed up, and there were so many more.”
Locally, in addition to driving calls for change within the community, participation in these events is reviving memories of past demonstrations on the Litchfield Green.
The event drew 300 people to the Litchfield Green Sunday, with participants dressed in black and wearing safety masks and standing on West Street from the Route 63 intersection down to Meadow Street, holding signs. Tanguay attended a protest in Waterbury that morning. “(It) was quite different than ours, as you can imagine,” she said. “When I got back, I parked at the bottom of the Green, and I just saw people literally coming out of the woodwork, dressed in black, carrying signs.”
Audrey Blondin and her husband, Dr. Matthew Blondin, joined the event, foregoing their own 45th wedding anniversary celebration to be part of history, she said.
“We got there a little after 3 p.m., and the entire Green was filled,” she said. “It’s the most people I’ve ever seen on the Green at one time.”
Residents Dorothea and Mario DiCecco, who created a group called “Imagine Peace,” have held protests on the Green in the past, including over the Iraq War.
“We went every Sunday,” she said. “There were always a lot of people that kept coming and coming, every Sunday. Sometimes it would just be three or four people. It was very wonderful to meet people, but it was hard to keep people interested. But we were an anti-war group. We didn’t stop for a long time.”
DiCecco has watched the reaction to Floyd’s death unfold with concern and interest. “What our president’s doing — it’s no way to settle anything,” she said. “He is now trying to get troops in to quiet down our country. That won’t work.
“I’m so moved by what’s happening now,” she said. “Not just in the U.S., but in England, Germany, France. ... In England, they’re saying, ‘We’ve got to talk about colonialism,’ and recognize what happened to build these countries up. I feel like these are things that really have to change. People have suffered for so long.
“We talk about what a great country we are, and a lot of it is wonderful, but it’s only for certain people,” she said. “Maybe some good will come of this. I feel optimistic for the first time in a long time.”
Blondin has participated in several marches in Washington, DC, including the 2017 March for Women and a Black Lives Matter March in 2016. She also protested the war in Vietnam on the New Haven Green in the 1970s.
“Sunday was a peaceful assembly of like-minded citizens, all there for the same reason, expressing their thoughts and beliefs and showing their support,” she said. “What was really interesting was the age of the people who were there. There were young parents with their small children in strollers, and there were seniors, and everything in between. It was just great.”
Tanguay and her group aren’t planning any more demonstrations at the moment, because other towns are holding their own. “We’re letting people make the rounds,” she said.