Lansing speaks out against racism, police brutality

Lansing residents demonstrate in support of the Black Lives Matter movement at the intersection of Peruville and Triphammer roads June 7. More than 175 people gathered to raise awareness of racism in the community.
Lansing residents demonstrate in support of the Black Lives Matter movement at the intersection of Peruville and Triphammer roads June 7. More than 175 people gathered to raise awareness of racism in the community.
Photo by Clara Montague
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More than 175 Lansing residents came out at 9 a.m. on Sunday, June 7 to gather at the Lansing Town Hall in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. The crowd heard from Lansing residents affected by racism and marched the half-mile to the intersection of Triphammer and Peruville roads to demonstrate and raise awareness of the issue within their community.

The event was organized by two recent graduates of Lansing High School – Haley Georgia and Emily Georgia. The sisters provided loudspeakers, masks, water and first aid supplies to the group and introduced speakers Town Supervisor Ed LaVigne, Steven Paige and Darius Cauthen.

“I think it’s important to show our support, to let people know that they are heard and supported, especially in small towns,” Haley Georgia said before the event began.

She graduated from Lansing in 2011 and now teaches social studies in Hannibal.

Emily Georgia is a 2016 Lansing grad who now works in human services for Tompkins County.

“I go on social media and see what people say, and it’s so disheartening,” she said.

LaVigne told the crowd that “we need to pull together and end this isolation. We need to find unity in community.”

He reminded marchers to maintain social distancing and to be safe on the road’s shoulder.

“Let’s show our message, bring attention to the issues, continue the conversation and unite as the Lansing community,” he said.

Emily Georgia read the names of African American victims of police brutality and then asked Steven Paige to share his experience growing up in Lansing.

Paige told the crowd that he was adopted by a white family in Lansing and that, when he was 5 years old, “two carloads of people smashed the windows out” in his house. His mother hid him under a bed, and he remembered thinking “my family is in danger because of me.”

Paige said that there are “a lot of good people in town, and a lot of good police officers in town. I’m friends with them. But I became numb, it became normal.”

The video of George Floyd’s death hit Paige “like a ton of bricks,” bringing back childhood memories of being “chased through the woods by people who wanted to hurt me.”

Paige remembered thinking, “I’m not a bad person. I don’t understand how people can feel this way.”

“I thank God for the people who saved me, more than once,” Paige said at the march. “Some of those people are here today.”

Paige remarked on the systemic racism that has continued to pervade.

“I can’t imagine teaching people to hate someone because they are different,” Paige said. “We need to look at each other with compassion, love and acceptance. I hope that children going to school don’t make the same mistakes. We have to change.”

Darius Cauthen told the gathering that he moved his family to Lansing four years ago to escape police brutality.

“We were looked at differently because of the color of our skin,” he said. “Down there, you can get pulled over and arrested just because of the area you are in. I want to be equal. I want my children to be judged by their actions and the purity of their hearts.”

Haley Georgia then asked the crowd to take a knee for George Floyd for the length of time Floyd was held down by police – eight minutes and 49 seconds – and then to carefully march along the shoulder of the road to the four-way intersection.

There, marchers split into four groups – one for each corner – and waved signs and shouted slogans. Drivers passing through honked or waved in support; despite some online suggestions to the contrary, there was no open opposition to the march or its message during the demonstration.

County Legislator Mike Sigler said that “I came here to listen. This is a topic that is on everybody’s mind.”

Sigler noted that Tompkins County passed a resolution condemning institutional racism and the killing of George Floyd on June 3.

“The question is, what are we going to do going forward?” he said. “We need to address the issue while protecting the community, and the police are part of the community, too. We want to help the police serve better.”

Sigler also highlighted Sheriff Derek Osborne’s introduction of a “duty to intervene” policy, requiring officers to intercede if they see a colleague breaking department protocols.

“I am happy to say that the sheriff has already put this policy into place,” Sigler said. “Is the problem solved? Or is the problem going to need constant treatment going forward, every day? We have to address that.”

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