Demonstrators take a knee of silence

by Mackenzie Reiss
| June 10, 2020 1:00 AM

On Wednesday afternoon at the intersection of Holt Drive and Montana 35, a group of approximately 20 people took a silent knee for 10 minutes in honor of “those whose voices are not heard,” according to demonstration organizer Kathleen Moon. The event was held in response to the recent officer-involved killing of Minneapolis black man, George Floyd. Floyd, 46, died after Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes. His death has inspired a wave of Black Lives Matter protests in all 50 states, throughout Europe and as far off as New Zealand. The majority of these gatherings have been peaceful assemblies although in some major cities such as Minneapolis, Seattle and Los Angeles, there have been instances of riots and looting.

During Wednesday’s demonstration, participants kneeled, held signs and waved at passing traffic. Local resident Kathleen Moon organized the event and said the demonstration wasn’t anti-cop, but rather a means of being actively “anti-racist.”

“Living in Montana it’s very easy to look at that and say it’s not our problem but it’s our tribe, it’s our tribe doing this. We’re part of it,” said Moon. “Floyd was the catalyst in the sense that I watched that and I wasn’t shocked. I sat there and I watched it and I’m like, why am I not shocked? I’m numb to it. And I can’t be. We can’t be.”

She further explained that she believes Montana doesn’t have some of the racial issues that larger communities have because of the lack of diversity.

“Even though we are isolated here and we don’t have these issues per se, we also don’t have a black community. That’s why we don’t have these issues. And why do people move here? If you really get down to why people move here from outside, it’s because they’re comfortable here. And they’re comfortable here because they’re not challenged,” she said. “This idea that there are rogue cops — there are no rogue cops, no bad apple cops. We have a system that says it’s OK and they’re just playing along with the system. It’s sad. It’s just sad.”

A group of three young men came out to observe the protestors because they said they were concerned with the riots in other cities and didn’t want to see the same thing develop in their local community.

“They’re being peaceful here, but in a majority of the country, they’re not being peaceful. With all the protests going on around the valley, there’s just not enough cops to go around,” said Zack Wenzel, of Bigfork. “As long as they’re being peaceful, I don’t agree with it, but I really don’t care. I just want to make sure that they’re going to stay that way.”

Braxton Mitchell, the Republican nominee for House District 3 in Columbia Falls, also came out to observe the scene.

“I’m all for peaceful assemblance. I’m all for the first amendment, I think everyone should have the right to have their voice heard. All lives matter, but apparently saying all lives matter to them is racist,” Mitchell said. “I’m sure 99.9% of Americans and people around the world agree that he was wrongfully killed. That should not have happened. But police officers are getting murdered around the country.”

But demonstrator Margot Hunter, of Ferndale, said she didn’t think they were there to protect the peace at all and said they yelled at her as she was leaving the area, shouting “All lives matter.”

“I did not feel at all like they were there to keep peace at all in any way shape or form. The guy, as he was talking to me, had his hand on his gun. That’s not peaceful. When you see someone with a gun, does that shout peace to you?” Hunter said. “I felt like they were there to antagonize. They wouldn’t even allow me to tell a Bible story.”

Despite the difference in viewpoints between the two groups, Wednesday afternoon’s event remained largely peaceful, apart from some verbal exchanges. Demonstrators and the onlookers retreated to their vehicles after the demonstration concluded and while Hunter said she was yelled at, some of the demonstrators and observers also had level-headed conversations with each other before leaving the area.

“We don’t want any arguments with people...,” said demonstrator Cindy Barton of the Swan Valley, “We would do this for any color, it’s just we’re tired of seeing the violence. We’ve got to come together to stop this. It’s just getting out of hand.”

The Minneapolis Police officer, Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck is facing a second-degree murder charge. The three other officers at the scene Thomas Lane, Tou Thao and Alexander Kueng, face aiding and abetting charges. All four were fired from the Minneapolis Police Department following the killing on May 25. ■

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A group of approximately 20 people took a silent knee in support of social justice for all whose voices have been silenced. The demonstration was motivated by the recent killing of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on May 25. The group remained peacful throughout their 10-minute demonstration. A group of three young men came out to observe the protestors, after becoming concerned with the wave of riots and looting also taking place across the country. At the Wednesday afternoon event, the two entities only made a few verbal exchanges that did not escalate on either side. (Mackenzie Reiss/Daily Inter Lake)

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Three young men observe a group of demonstrators at the intersection of Holt Drive and Montana 35. The men said they came out to make sure the event stayed peaceful, but some demonstrators felt they were there to intimidate them.

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A group of approximately 20 people took a silent knee in support of social justice for all whose voices have been silenced, according to org. The demonstration was motivated by the death of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man, who died after Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for more than 8 minutes. Law enforcement encountered Floyd after a deli clerk called 911 because they thought Floyd was using a counterfeit $20 bill to purchase cigarettes. The group remained peacful throughout their 10-minute demonstration. A group of three young men came out to observe the demonstrators after becoming concerned with the riots and looting also taking place in some U.S. cities. At the Wednesday afternoon event, the two entities only made a few verbal exchanges that did not escalate on either side. (Mackenzie Reiss/Daily Inter Lake)