Organizers stand in front of the First Universalist Church in Norway after passing out masks to demonstrators Thursday during a Black Lives Matter vigil. Jon Bolduc/Sun Journal

NORWAY ⁠— While Minneapolis mourned for George Floyd at a memorial service Thursday, around 70 people stood in solidarity with them in front of the First Universalist Church on Main Street in Norway.

The Black Lives Matter vigil was a somber, mostly quiet affair.

Dorothy Raymond, a member of the First Universalist Church and a member of the church’s social justice committee helped hand out masks to demonstrators and urged them to spread out down the sidewalk to maintain social distance.

“There’s no chanting or singing, as much as we are chanters or singers. It’s not safe virus wise,” said Raymond.

The consensus among demonstrators seemed to be that the killing of George Floyd in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department last week was a turning point in a nationwide movement that found its way to Oxford County.

About 70 people attend a vigil on Main Street in front of the First Universalist Church in Norway on Thursday afternoon. Jon Bolduc/Sun Journal

“It’s important for me because I think everybody across the country feels the pain … the shooting of young black men. It blew the lid off of all of this. We need to stand up and stay something about this,” said an unnamed demonstrator.

“We are over-privileged white people. This is a platform we have to say something about never ending racism and violence. Equal justice for all is the basic thing, and right out loud, ‘black lives matter,'” said Raymond.

For the most part drivers honked, gave thumbs up, or otherwise expressed solidarity with the message of the demonstrators. A few, however, offered rude gestures as they passed, and one even shouted obscenities at the crowd as he drove by.

According to Fayre Stephenson, the initial reaction to the announcement on the church’s Facebook page that a rally would be held in Norway was mixed. Most were happy and expressed support, but a few saw it as a negative force to bring into the town.

About 70 people attend a vigil on Main Street in front of the First Universalist Church in Norway on Thursday afternoon. Jon Bolduc/Sun Journal

“We had people saying ‘why are you doing this, you’ll make things worse.’ And saying ‘all lives matter.’ And we were responded saying, ‘of course all lives matter, but if black lives don’t matter, then nobody’s (lives) matter. That was our response to the first comment,” said Stephenson.

Eventually, the comments got too “hot” and the church chose to turn off comments.

“This is a church Facebook page, not a place for four-letter words; it’s a place of love,” said Stephenson.

For Raymond, the vigil, which was completely peaceful, was a way to bring the issues she sees in the rest of the U.S. to a sleepy town in Oxford County.

“There are all kinds of ways racism is institutionalized, and those institutions are here, as well as anywhere else,” she said. “Another thing is, I have the privilege of not paying attention. I can turn away and ignore all of it. I can get away with it here. Maybe not in New York City. But it’s important that we don’t (ignore it); that we pay attention.”

About 70 people attend a vigil on Main Street in front of the First Universalist Church in Norway on Thursday afternoon. Jon Bolduc/Sun Journal

Two demonstrators take a break under the shade of a tree during a vigil for the Black Lives Matter movement Thursday afternoon. Jon Bolduc/Sun Journal

Two demonstrators sit on the front steps of the First Universalist Church on Main Street in Norway on Thursday afternoon. Jon Bolduc/Sun Journal


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.