Bushnell Park. The State Capital. Keney Park. All separate demonstrations in Hartford on Saturday with an identical goal.
“We’re here to make a change. A change that is permanent,” said Miguel Badillo.
Badillo was among the protesters at Bushnell Park. There, organizers persuaded attendees to register to vote, urging them to take back power by choosing new leaders.
Elsewhere, at the capital, faith leaders gathered for a prayer service.
“We’re praying that the world would know that Black lives matter and we’re praying for all humanity to come together,” said Pastor Daylan Greer of the Bethel AME Church.
This was followed by an afternoon march to Keney Park, organized by Mothers United Against Violence.
“I want to be able to look at my little children and all the children and say, 'you should not have to deal with this for the next generation,'” said MUAV member Deborah Davis.
Prior to the march, dozens of people gathered on Main Street. It began with a prayer led by Hartford’s Reverend Henry Brown.
He praised the youth and their generation for what they’ve done with the Black Lives Matter movement. He reminded them that change will not come overnight. So, he encouraged them to keep the movement going for years to come.
“These young people headed up this movement, Black Lives Matter, because they understand what’s at stake. Their very lives are at stake,” said Brown.
Attending the MUAV event was Hartford Police Chief Jason Thody who says he was there to listen, advocating a partnership with the community.
“Our police departments needs to know that they’re accountable to their citizens,” said Thody. “They’re accountable for their actions.”
Thody says he has heard the concerns and ideas that are being discussed to facilitate change.
“A lot of it is just doing the right thing,” he said. “They want police officers that do the right thing. That keep the community safe and don’t do more harm than good.”
Earlier this week, Hartford City Council voted to reduce the police department budget and reallocate funds both inside and outside the department, including to social service.
Thody says he is all for putting money into the community but says there needs to be a way to do it without sending a message that it’s a punishment.
“The message that any kind of defunding sends a department that has a pretty good report card right now I think is a poor one,” Thody said. “Especially for the men and women who are out here themselves.”
According to the mayor’s office, the passed budget included a six percent reduction and reallocation within the police department budget compared with last year.
Hartford Police say this is partially due to COVID-19's impact on the city budget. Thody says he saw this coming but doesn’t think it will help them achieve the goal of change.
“I don’t think that it’s the way we’re going to get better.” he said. “I don’t think that by reducing funding and reducing resources and then asking for an entity like law enforcement to improve those two things go together.”