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Chants Of 'No Justice, No Peace' And No Traffic Moving On I-95

Hundreds of protesters occupied a portion of I-95 South in New Haven Sunday afternoon in a peaceful protest against police brutality and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Activists filled the southbound side of the interstate near Long Wharf, stopping traffic in both directions for about two hours before marching on to the New Haven Police Department headquarters. Activists sat in the middle of the highway, holding signs and chanting "No justice, no peace," while some stopped cars honked in support. 

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Protesters began gathering in downtown New Haven around noon in response to a flyer that circulated on social media calling for a peaceful demonstration and march from Broadway to City Hall.

Ala Ochumare, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter New Haven chapter, spoke to the crowd and led chants of "We ain't going nowhere until we're free" before leading the crowd down Elm Street toward the Green. Black Lives Matter organizers quickly became leaders in the protest, although they say they do not know who originally created the flyer calling for the march. 

"For me, it's really important for me to be out here to show that I'm in unison with everyone else," said protester Alicia McKenzie. "I'm half black, and my father and my brother have dealt with police brutality all their lives, and so for me, I've witnessed it. I've seen it growing up, and it needs to change," McKenzie said. "We're tired of hashtags. We need justice, we need reform, and we need change now."

New Haven, protest, black lives matter
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
Ala Ochumare, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter New Haven chapter, stands in front of a line of police officers blocking off access to the New Haven Police Department headquarters as hundreds of protesters flooded the steps in front of the building.

As the growing crowd continued down Church Street, the protest turned and marched onto the Oak Street Connector. Police cars stopped traffic and allowed protesters to march up the interstate on-ramp, where the crowd marched along I-95 South, shouting "Black lives matter" and "Don't shoot," among other chants. Organizers then instructed the crowd to sit down, covering the entire southbound portion of the highway before the Long Wharf exit ramp. 

On the northbound side of the highway, motorist Fran McDonald climbed out of his stopped car to watch the demonstration. He said he was traveling from New York back home to Massachusetts but was not angry about the delay in his trip.

"Everything I've seen here has been incredibly powerful and peaceful," McDonald said, "and I'm hoping there’s a big takeaway for everybody that's involved -- not only on the marching side but for the rest of us who are mildly inconvenienced by a mild delay, compared to what we have to fix in this country."

New Haven, protest, black lives matter, George Floyd
Credit Ryan Caron King / Connecticut Public
Hundreds of demonstrators block roads and highways in New Haven to protest police brutality in Connecticut and across the country after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Protester Jacqueline Torres of New Haven marveled at the sight of activists marching down the interstate emptied of cars. "It's not every day we take over a highway, you know. It makes you want to cry … it's just the power of everyone being together," she said. 

After about two hours, the protesters began to move off the interstate ramp and marched to the New Haven Police Department headquarters.

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