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Protesters say they’ve seen plenty of racism

Tupper Lake Black Lives Matter demonstration prompts discussion

Matthew Cobb, left, and Dianna Bryan said they attended Tupper Lake’s Black Lives Matter protest Monday in hopes that if people see support for the BLM movement is strong in the Adirondacks it will allow for a more diverse population within the park. (Enterprise photo — Aaron Cerbone)

TUPPER LAKE — Protestors at Monday’s Black Lives Matter protest on Demars Boulevard had many reasons for being there amid the honks, cheers and jeers.

Asia Sampson of Vermontville is black, but she said with her dyed-red hair and a mask on, she “passes” as white. She said this means people often say racist things around her when they do not realize they are not surrounded by white people.

Sampson said she’s also seen racism directed at her since she moved with her mother to the Adirondacks from New Jersey when she was in school.

“I’ve been called a n***** more times since I’ve been up here than I’ve ever heard in my life,” Sampson said. “It’s insane.”

She said it’s sad that some people cannot see past skin color.

Nicole Wylie, also of Vermontville, is friends with Sampson and said she was at the protest to “support friendship.” She said she also has Hispanic children of her own she was there for.

Jason Cromps, who said he recently moved to the area from Ohio, was with Sampson and Wylie. He said he came out because he is having a child with a black woman and said violence against black people has to stop.

Dianna Bryan, who works at Adirondack Medical Center in Saranac Lake, said she came because she wants to create a better sense of safety for people of color in the Adirondacks. She said sometimes people are not used to seeing people of color, like herself, here.

Serena Curry said she was there because she sees a lot of hate in people.

“We won’t really be free and united if there’s so much hate,” Curry said. “My heart breaks.”

Derek Tepe is from Indiana but lives in the Tri-Lakes area now. He said he believes the roadside protest format is productive. He said it can be discouraging when people drive by without showing support, but even if people in passing cars are not honking for the protest, their signs and their presence can spawn conversations among families and friends in those cars.

Elizabeth Boylan, one of the organizers, said she was at a Saranac Lake protest for the same cause June 2 and was motivated to organize this one because she didn’t see a lot of Tupper Lakers there.

“I think people take it for granted that we live in a small area where a lot of bad things don’t happen, and people just want to say, ‘It doesn’t matter. … It doesn’t affect us,” Boylan said.

Sidewalk debate

At one point a man named Tony, who is from Chicago but lives in the area, came over to speak with the protestors. He is black, and while he said he appreciated what they were doing, he did not believe it was enough.

He said racism is a systemic problem in America, from police to the courts and from education to stores. He said talking is not good enough when black people are being killed and oppressed every day.

“When is enough enough?” he asked.

He said people should be dismantling the systems that cause the violence.

“No matter what we do, it’s not going to stop,” he said.

Sampson addressed his idea.

“Every single word that’s come out of your mouth I’ve agreed with, hands down, except for one,” Sampson said. “No, we can’t do anything to change systems … but the only thing we, as individuals, can do … is to make our voices heard.”

A man stepped out of the crowd and said people can make a difference by voting out the current Congress. This was met with mixed reactions from the crowd, Tony and Sampson.

Police present

This protest, like many others, including Saranac Lake’s, has received at least one or two people who said they would shoot protesters if they turn violent or destructive. Organizers said they turned some of these statements over to the police.

Village Police Chief Eric Proulx said the State Police looked into these statements and found they were not serious enough to file charges. He said more officers were brought on duty to keep an eye on the event, and that State Police were also there.

Proulx said officers observed from afar and that he was glad the protest remained peaceful.

The organizers said they did not have an anti-cop message and that they were more focused on changing racism in the area. Proulx agreed, saying he believed their protest was centered more on national issues.

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