Police asked to take a knee — some do
After marching through town from the Onset Pier and Besse Park, a crowd of about 400 protesters in support of the Black Lives Matter movement against systemic racism and police brutality gathered in front of the Wareham Police Station, and demanded that officers take a knee in solidarity with them.
Despite numerous demands from protesters, Police Chief John Walcek refused to kneel.
Protesters arrived at the station just before 7:30 p.m. Once there, they kneeled and broke out in applause before listening to speakers discuss systemic racism in law enforcement and the immediate need for reform.
In one speech, Jendell Teixeira, a senior at Old Rochester Regional High School, said “We are fighting for the world to see that black lives do matter… I’m sick and tired of my people getting killed.”
Teixeira called for justice for George Floyd, as well as for Malcolm Gracia, a teenager who was killed by police in New Bedford in 2012.
After listening to the speakers, protesters demanded that police officers who were standing in front of the station take a knee with them. The officers remained silent and standing.
Walcek then walked out from the station to meet the crowd. Protesters asked him personally to kneel, but he refused and walked in and out of the station multiple times.
Shortly after 7:45 p.m., Walcek approached the barrier blocking off the front of the station and spoke directly to protesters in front of the crowd.
Rather than express solidarity with protesters or acknowledge racism within the criminal justice system, he spoke about his own personal character, claiming that he treats people with “dignity and respect.”
“I’m also a devout Catholic, so the only place I take a knee is church,” he said.
Protesters continued their demands for Walcek to kneel, and also personally called out to Lt. Walter Correia, who also refused to kneel.
The crowd did not relent in their demands, and at 8 p.m., protesters chanted “no justice, no peace, no racist ass police.”
It was not until about 8:10 p.m. that a Wareham officer took a knee with the protesters.
Detective Karl Baptiste was first to kneel. He said he chose to do so because “I’m part of the community...they’re part of me,” and noted that he is a black man who was raised in Wareham.
Detective Dean Decas, who later took a knee alongside Detective Karl Baptiste, said, “I did what was the right thing to do.
After the two officers kneeled with the crowd, protesters took a knee a final time before leaving.
This time, they kneeled in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the amount of time that Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, killing Floyd.
Many protesters expressed their frustrations with Walcek’s refusal to kneel.
“I think that he sent the message that he does not care about the community,” said Brianna Tavares.
“They don’t care. They have no compassion. It’s disgusting,” said another protester of Walcek’s refusal to kneel. “We’re asking them for one thing: Take a knee. Show some compassion.”
“We’re asking them to show a little solidarity for 400 years of oppression,” said yet another protester. “It’s disgusting.”