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Around 100 area residents stood out at Park Square on Sunday in protest of police brutality following the death of another Black man, this time in Tennessee.
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Vocalist Wanda Houston sings with the crowd on Sunday.
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The group briefly stopped traffic at the downtown hub.
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Berkshire Residents Take Stand Against Police Brutality

By Brittany PolitoiBerkshires Staff
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NAACP local President Dennis Powell says the police culture has to change. Roberta McCullough-Dews says she worries about her children. Change has to start with legislation and policies, she added. 
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Protesters on Sunday condemned continued police brutality following the fatal beating of Tyre Nichols in Memphis, Tenn. in early January.
 
Five Memphis officers have been charged in his death, which came three days after he was brutally battered during a traffic stop. The video of the incident released Friday by Memphis authorities was so disturbing that warnings were issued ahead of time. 
 
"The culture of policing in America has got to change," Berkshire NAACP President Dennis Powell said to the hundred or so community members, activists, and local leaders at Park Square.
 
"We offer condolences to the family of Tyre Nichols. Tyre: father, loving son, brother, avid skateboarder, worker, and artist of photography was brutally murdered by five vigilante police officers. Members of a special police unit called Scorpion, which stands for the street crimes operation to restore peace in our neighborhood. 
 
"What kind of crap is that?"
 
Powell addressed the fact that the officers who beat Nichols were Black.
 
"The problem isn't a few bad apples, Black or white. The problem is the soul of policing, the power of blue. It is the culture of policing in America," he said.
 
"These five Black and blue officers became blue and Black officers in uniform. My mind will not allow me to comprehend how five football-sized men could allow the power of blue to bring them to brutally beat a 140-pound man that looks just like them when they are not in uniform: Black men."
 
He asserted that Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland and Police Chief Cerelyn Davis need to be held accountable and that the 40-officer Scorpion unit was for "terrorizing a neighborhood," noting that Strickland touted it garnering more than 550 arrests in about two years.
 
"In no way am I saying that the five officers that committed this heinous crime don't deserve everything that's happening to them. However, we see clearly how the laws of justice work for Black officers compared to white officers," Powell added.
 
"They were immediately fired, not put on an administrative leave with pay pending an investigation. They were then arrested and charged with second-degree murder, official misconduct, aggravated kidnapping, official oppression, and aggravated assault."
 
March 25 will mark one year since Miguel Estrella, 22, was killed by Pittsfield Police officers while in "a state of distress." An investigation by the Berkshire County District Attorney's Office cleared both officers, saying the shooting was in self-defense.
 
Estrella, Nichols, and the many other lives that have been lost in similar situations were remembered during the rally. At one point, participants stood at the intersections of North, South, East and West streets.
 
NAACP member Kamaar Taliaferro said he chose not to engage with law enforcement when they parked cruisers around the crowd of people on the road.
 
"I chose to engage with those people who had the courage to try something different, who wanted to stand together with their neighbors, with their friends, with their allies," he said.
 
"So that's where my focus was, on how we were keeping each other safe in that moment and how the drivers, whether they agreed or didn't, were capable of exercising their own responsible decision-making to not run us over." 
 
The coalition that fought for change after Estrella's death explicitly asked for a mental health responder with proper training that is separate from the Police Department, he said. Last fall, two new co-responder positions were created
 
"The co-responder program might be a step in the right direction but what is the pathway to redirect that funding from policing into the investments that we need as a community?" Taliaferro asked.
 
Meg Bossong of Invest in Pittsfield said the protesters came out because "this cannot continue."
 
Her organization also called for alternatives to policing in the city after Estrella's death.
 
Pittsfield spends an incredible amount of money on policing, Bossong said, while it could be invested into education, economic development, and mental health resources.
 
"The system is broken, the system is never going to change," she added. "It is not a training problem, it is not a resourcing problem.  We need different ideas and the naive position is to think that we can continue throwing resources into a system that is brutalizing people."
 
Local activist Kelan O'Brien called the city's police budget exorbitant and not transparent, pointing to a $40,000 line item for bullets that matches a $40,000 line item for books in the Berkshire Antheneum's budget.
 
In fiscal 2023, the department's budget was $11,927,437, a $411,206 or 3.57 percent increase from the previous year.
 
Roberta McCulloch-Dews, the city's director of administrative services and public information officer and a youth mentor with the Rites of Passage Empowerment Program (ROPE), said the community has rallied for the "exact same thing" many times.
 
"I just want to say first and foremost we are not anti-good officers. That needs to be said because just because we have an examination of the police system, does not mean that we are anti officers but if you are a good officer, you have nothing to worry about, it is for the ones who are not doing the right thing," she said.
 
"But the good officers are part of a system that can't even allow them to do the right thing because if they want to speak up, they're ostracized, or they don't get the backup and so we are calling for an examination of federal change."
 
As a mother of three, she is tired of the injustice and wants legislation and policy.  
 
"When I go to another community, no one's going to know if my child goes that school, that my child was a great football player who excelled in school or did well at gymnastics, all they will see is a black face and in that moment, that face might be deemed a threat," McCulloch-Dews said.
 
She added that all 5 feet and 2 inches of herself might also be deemed a threat because of her race, which is something that she thinks about often.
 
"We have a modicum of safety where we stand, but what we're talking about is when we go to different states, different climates, we don't have the luxury to depend on someone seeing my humanity," she said.
 
"So right now we're not asking for a change of hearts or minds, we don't want that. We want legislation and we want policy. That is what we're asking for. And it is up to us as we the people to demand change from our elected officials. That is where our power lies."
 
Both Powell and McCulloch-Dews could not stand to watch the video footage of Tyre's traffic stop.
 
"I didn't want to put that in my memory system," Powell said.
 
"I know I would never have packed a lunch, a picnic basket, hitched up a horse and buggy to take my family to a hanging. That's why I did not watch the video."

Tags: police,   protests,   

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Post 68 Juniors Shut Out North Adams

By Leland BarnesiBerkshires.com Sports
PITTSFIELD , Mass — A monster fifth inning led the Post 68 Juniors to a 4-0 win against North Adams Post 125 in American Legion baseball action on Saturday at Buddy Pellerin Field.
 
Late in the game for Post 68, a rally started which led to their ultimate victory.
 
A combination of hits from Derek Roy, David Wildgoose and, Ethan O’Donnell resulted in two of Post 68’s runs scored.
 
On the bump, Gavin and Ethan O’Donnell combined for seven strikeouts.
 
“Today was a hot one,” Ethan said, “Had to work consistently and get flyouts and groundouts.”
 
And the pair combined to allow just three total hits.
 
In the shutout Post 68’s defense was on point the entire game, only allowing two errors on missed throws to first base.
 
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