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Black women hold protest in Bridgeport, demand police reform

February 20, 2022 GMT

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) — Black women and their supporters held a protest march in Connecticut’s largest city on Saturday, demanding police and government reforms amid accusations of racial insensitivity by the Bridgeport Police Department in how it handled the deaths of two Black women.

About 150 people, including Black elected women and leaders, turned out for the protest dubbed “Black Women Speak! A March for Truth & Justice.”

“This isn’t just about these two women. It’s about the systematic racism that’s taken place in Bridgeport for a long time,” state Sen. Marilyn Moore, D-Bridgeport, told Hearst Connecticut Media in an interview. “Black women are tired of it and they’re gonna stand up to it.”

Lauren Smith-Fields, 23, and Brenda Lee Rawls, 53, were each found dead on Dec. 12 in their respective apartments. While the incidents were unrelated, both women’s families said police did not notify them of the deaths in a timely manner. Smith-Fields died from an accidental overdose, according to the state medical examiner, while Rawls’ cause of death has not yet been determined.

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Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, a Democrat, has apologized to the families and last month directed the city police department’s deputy chief to place two detectives on administrative leave for their handling of the cases. Despite such actions, some protesters called for him to resign Saturday.

There were also demands for a U.S. Department of Justice investigation into the Bridgeport Police Department and a state task force to study the issue of missing and murdered Black women and girls in Connecticut.