Local Veteran Tom Bishop Takes a Knee and Offers His Support



Local Veteran Tom Bishop Takes a Knee and Offers His Support

Catalog Entry

In the wake of nationwide civil unrest after the murder of George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrie, and many others, all at the hands of police, people across the world marched in solidarity and to bring awareness to a racially biased criminal justice system, and a culture of police violence to black people. Many citizens of the small town of North Brookfield, in central Massachusetts also joined the movement. The protest was organized by a small facebook group called “North brookfield Fights Fear,”* which was a small, progressive group of like-minded community members. The protest was set for May 25th. The participants walked from the North Brookfield high school, to the town common. Along the march this photo was taken, which was then followed by an interview from a reporter with the subject of the photo. This powerful image depicts a local veteran from north Brookfield, taking the time out of his day donning his military BDUs to show his silent support of the local cause. Tom was not expecting to be recognized for this, rather, he simply saw the protest going by and silently took a knee and offered supportive fist bumps to his fellow community members. When asked about this, Tom said outright he did not do so to be put on a pedestal. He went on to say "What I'm asking for is equality. I'm asking for equal opportunities for my people as a whole," he said. "I feel we deserve to be treated the same because we're all humans at the end of the day. We bleed the same blood." 

*The North Brookfield Fights Fear group is a small group that developed in 2020 and was dedicated to the following tents, science is real, love is love, Trans people are valid, women’s rights are human rights, black lives matter, and no human being is “illegal. The group was

involved in campaigning for both local and federal elections, as well as helping in organizing protests for Black Lives Matter. 

Connection to the Theme- there is something very unique about how news travels in a small community. Unlike the national coverage that you will find on the news, or stories about cities that were impacted hugely, things tend to be expressed much more simply. When discussing how things are affecting small communities like North Brookfield, you have to look no further than the average citizens. In such a small community there tend to be very few people with the courage and willingness to speak up when they see something wrong. In the wake of the black lives matter march, however, the community was stirring. Let’s now look back to the image of Mr. Bishop taking a knee. This image very well captures the theme of “taking on the bigger picture in a small town” because he didn’t have to show his support in a large or showing manner, he simply and humbly went to his knee to offer support. It’s interesting to observe that in most instances simple and humble support can often go unrecognized but it can still be massively important to the bigger picture. 

Significance- The subject of black lives matter is filled with large actions and powerful words, but not only these actions hold all the significance. When observing something with such a wide range of impacts, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, the actions of an individual aren't always significant. In the summer of 2020, amidst enormous protests, peaceful and non-peaceful alike, people from all around the world were doing their part in the movement. It is very likely that the ]simple knee of support taken by Mr. Bishop may not go down in history, but that does mean the action isn't still significant. The power of the individual can have a domino effect and

go onto inspire others or symbolise something much bigger than themselves. When accounting the significance of Mr. Bishop's actions directly, there is very little to be said about the significance in the big picture, but when you account for all the people who saw him with his knee of solidarity, in person or in the newspaper, the significance of his small action grew. Questions raised 

Was Tom's support indicative of the attitude of the entire town? 

Although Tom’s knee of solidarity was a wonderful instance of support from the general community, it was not a representation of the opinion of all the people in town. Many locals went as far as heckling the protestors as they gathered to speak on the town common. 

What is the general culture of the town? Was Mr. Bishop’s attitude representative of the town?

North Brookfield is a small, conservitive town. There was a very wide range of opinions of the protests at the time. Many people in the community were in strong opposition to the message of the protests. 

Does the image represent any sort of symbolism? 

The image is particularly powerful as Mr. Bishop is wearing his military uniform. Many see the uniform as a symbol of protection of the country and its citizens, so when a man in uniform is showing his support for the cause of racial justice, it could be argued that it looks as though he is offering much more than just support. Furthermore, the contrast of a man in uniform showing support not for the other men in uniform (the police), but instead for the people is also powerful. 


Ring, Kim. “Brookfield Rally for Black Lives Draws a Crowd.” Worcester Telegram, 4 June 2020, www.telegram.com/story/news/2020/06/04/north-brookfield-rally-for-black-lives-matter-dr aws-crowd/113743278/.

Catalog Entry Author(s)

Ethan Hines, Student, Fitchburg State University

ALFA Mentor

Gail Hoar


Kim Ring


“Local Veteran Tom Bishop Takes a Knee and Offers His Support,” Cultural Heritage through Image, accessed July 23, 2024, https://culturalheritagethroughimage.omeka.net/items/show/193.

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