Protest against racism Saturday hopes to unite, engage residents
FAIRFIELD — After a police incident that involved her black son took place during Fairfield University’s “Clam Jam” event, Amanda Hanson is hoping that an organized protest at Sherman Green Saturday noon will help unite and educate the community about diversity and racial disparity.
“Tomorrow I’m hoping that we can come together as a community, look at the diversity (in our town) and instead of being afraid of what seems different, instead we get closer and we get to know each other and celebrate the diversity in this town,” Hanson, a Fairfield Beach Road resident, said.
On April 27, Hanson’s son, Naquan Oliver, a 20-year-old black Fairfield University student, was involved in an incident with Fairfield police during the Clam Jam event on Penfield Beach.
Fairfield police, in a press release issued Friday morning, said that Oliver was intoxicated and was evaluated at a medical tent at the beach event in April.
Oliver, police said, “became unruly and belligerent towards staff and police officers” during that evaluation and Fairfield University Dean of Students William Johnson escorted the student from the beach.
When Oliver entered a driveway on the beachside — reportedly his home — police approached him and Oliver stated that he lived in that home. Officers asked for his identification which “had an address from a different street in town.”
Hanson confirmed this account, saying her son’s identification had an address from a previous residence in town.
Shortly after the April 27 incident, Hanson wrote about it on Facebook.
“Last week my 20-year-old black son was almost arrested for trespassing on our property! They (Fairfield Police) accused him of not living at our home. They would have NEVER grabbed him and pushed him up against the fence if he was white,” Hanson wrote.
Oliver, in an interview Friday, said he had been intoxicated and would be attending the Saturday event in hopes of engaging in dialogue with others in town.
“I went to high school here ... and I felt very accepted at Ludlowe High School which is not diverse at all but everyone accepted me for who I was,” Oliver said. “It’s so weird to have those two different views with going to high school and having this situation happen.”
Police stated that the officers involved acted properly and never “raised their voices, never stuck or used any force on the subject, and never had any intention of arresting him. He was never searched or patted down.”
“The women took her sons hand (sic) and escorted him into the home. The entire event lasted less than 3 minutes,” police said.
Police Chief Chris Lyddy confirmed that none of the police officers involved in this incident were wearing body cameras and that on May 3 he had visited Hanson and Oliver at their residence to engage in conversation.
Police added that that “racism played no part in this encounter whatsoever” and that the incident “was entirely caused by the intoxicated behavior of the student.”
The protest organized for Saturday at noon at Sherman Green has the goal of “exposing the underbelly of racism in our town, ask for accountability from everyone (and) move to actionable solutions.”
Lyddy and First Selectman Mike Tetreau have confirmed they would attend the Saturday event in the hopes that the town can engage in a meaningful discussion about diversity and racial disparity.
“We want to make sure that we’re doing the right thing,” Tetreau said. “I don’t want this to be divisive and if all we do is argue about what happened or didn’t happen, I don’t think that helps the community move forward.”
Tetreau said that he was contemplating restarting a community conversation initiative as in years past after he listens to people at Saturday’s event.
“We can always improve, we’re looking for how we can improve in every area and (it can be through) communication with residents,” Tetreau said.
Hanson, following a phone conversation with Lyddy, said she was interested in bringing Undoing Racism — a workshop by The People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond — to the Fairfield police department in an effort of solidarity.
“I think (Lyddy) too wants to do this right,” Hanson said. “What I’m doing tomorrow with hundreds of people in attendance is more productive and useful for our town in the long-term.”