By ERWIN FREED
On Wednesday, Jan. 27, around 200 students, parents, and community members braved the cold to demand racial justice at a rally in Naugatuck, Conn. That rally follows a walk-out attended by a strong majority of the students at Naugatuck High School (NHS) the prior day.
The immediate cause of these actions was the revelation that the daughter of Steven and Johanna Hunt, Naugatuck chief of police and high school associate principal, had sent a number of racist text messages two years ago. One read, “My dad is now officially police chief so that means he’s more advanced in shooting black people then [sic] he just was a couple minutes ago.”
Common demands from speakers included more classes on Black and Indigenous history, public reckoning of the racist nature of U.S. society, and the resignation of Chief Hunt. Many speakers pointed at the racially unequal punishments in public schools, noting that if the young Hunt were a Black person sending threatening messages, she would be punished. Keren Prescott, founder of Power Up, CT, asked why Black youth could not make mistakes without risking harm. In 2017, Wilby High School in nearby Waterbury, Conn., suspended over 150 mostly Black and Brown students for “dress code violations” in a single day.
The rally was one of the larger Black Lives Matter demonstrations in recent weeks in Connecticut. The turnout was a happy surprise to participants, including to two people who spoke to Socialist Resurgence. Alessia, a Naugatuck High senior, said that despite usually being a distance learner, she was inspired by all of the community support to stand with her class. As a woman of color, she felt it important to attend to push for change for herself and her younger sisters.
Similarly, Tiffany, a parent of an NHS student, was convinced by the energy to stay after dropping her son off at the rally. She wondered, if the school’s assistant principal had raised a daughter to think in such hateful terms, how that might affect school policy and the way NHS treats people like her son, who is Black. At the same time, she is not surprised at the racist home life of Naugatuck residents. A driver in the town once attempted to run over her young son and his friends and called them the n-word. Tiffany was encouraged by the large showing of solidarity from people from around the state.
Socialist Resurgence stands with the students and community members fighting racial injustice and white chauvinism. They are an important example of the fact that the BLM upsurge is far from over, and that a social explosion dwarfing that of last summer is still in the cards. Interested readers can see video of speakers at the rally on SR Connecticut’s Facebook page.
Photo by Erwin Freed / Socialist Resurgence