HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH) – They blocked traffic last Monday, chanting “Black lives matter,” and ended up in handcuffs. Today, the members of the “Hartford 17” got their day in court.
“Historically, America has been found guilty of taking black lives,” said Hartford civil rights activist Cornell Lewis “We’re here today to say ‘No longer.’ Black lives matter.”
The 17 defendants are charged with disorderly conduct for blocking a downtown Hartford street near the Old State House during rush hour last Monday afternoon to protest police brutality.
“We’re seen as a threat just because we’re in our skin and we’re see that we’re in the wrong place,” said Hartford resident, and “Hartford 17” member, Oshun Vicinte. “We belong in every place, in every aspect, in every corner. It’s not a threat.”
The protest caused a major traffic jam and inconvenienced drivers, a fact not lost on protestors.
“I’m inconvenienced by the countless men and women that have to have conversations with their children about stuff that white persons will never have to have conversations about,” said Rev. Anthony Bennett of the Mount Aery Baptist Church. “That’s an inconvenience.”
Rev. Bennett’s church is in Bridgeport, and many other protestors came from out of town to gather on Hartford’s streets, but one protest group, called “Hartford Action,” just wrote an open letter to Chief James Rovella commending the Hartford P-D for its handling of a shooting last week, writing: “You have shown a commendable willingness to rebuild trust and reduce conflict between law enforcement and Hartford community members.”
After marching from a press conference into Hartford Community Court, the protestors agreed to a plea deal to serve 3 days of community service. Afterwards, organizer Bishop John Selders said there’s a bigger responsibility to the community, however.
“That you have a civic duty and responsibility to speak up,” said Selders.
He also indicated that more instances of civil disobedience would be coming.