Ferguson on the mind of Western MA protestors - CBS 3 Springfield - WSHM

Ferguson on the mind of Western MA protestors

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NORTHAMPTON, MA (WSHM) -

The violence we have seen in Ferguson, MO, and overseas in the Middle East may be thousands of miles away from Western Massachusetts, but that did not stop dozens of local protesters from rallying for peace on Friday night.

Organizers labeled the protest as "Ferguson to Gaza."

It sounds like that covers a lot of ground, but protesters say there is more in common than one would think.

Protesters rallied in front of Northampton City Hall with many different messages shown.

While some showed support for Palestine and others voiced concern over banks foreclosing on homes, you did not have to look hard to see support for Michael Brown, the 18-year-old who was fatally shot by a policeman in Missouri earlier this month.

Protesters told CBS 3 that they can draw parallels between what's happening overseas and the reaction from authorities to Brown supporters in Missouri.

"They link together through the militarization of the police forces," said Charles Peck, a Springfield resident. "The violence abroad and the violence at home are always connected."

"The U.S. government can give Army surplus weapons to police departments all over the country for free and that is frightening," said Carolyn Oppenheim, who lives in Northampton.

Oppenheim is no stranger to anti-war protests.

She said she was stunned by some of what she has seen out of Ferguson.

"It changes the whole nature of police from 'we protect and serve' to we're the soldiers that are going to keep you on the line, taking away democracy," said Oppenheim. "It terrified me."

Community leaders are also speaking out.

Rev. Talbert Swan, president of the NAACP of Greater Springfield, said Springfield and Ferguson have similar issues.

He believes there has to be more open dialogue, especially between police and city residents.

"I don't think there has been enough effort put forward to focus around the relationship between the community and the police," said Swan.

This week, Swan exchanged letters with Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno.

Swan's hope is to see the city's human relations commission re-activated.

In his letter, Sarno pointed to various committees currently active in his administration, including his violence prevention task force.

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