Casper Protest Starts With Silence, Then Talk, Then Solidarity
They were silent when they were supposed to be silent, and spoke when they needed to speak.
About 500 people, mostly young, began walking from the David Street Station at noon to protest the death of Minneapolis resident George Floyd after an officer knelt on his neck last week.
The protest, organized by Casper Youth for Justice, was peaceful and silent for the first 15 minutes as the crowd walked north to the Hall of Justice -- the headquarters of the Casper Police Department and the Natrona County Sheriff's Office -- at 201 N. David St.
Many of the marchers held signs: "Black Lives Matter, You Are Not Alone," "There Is Power in Unity," "All Lives Can't Matter Until Black Ones Do," "Silence = Violence," and "Racism Is The Virus," referring to the COVID-19 pandemic that dominated the world news until Lloyd's death last week.
Alexander O'Neal, who moved to Casper in 2015 is the son of a cop in St. Louis where he grew up, and has seen many sides of the racial divide in the United States.
He was first in line during the march with a sign saying, "There's No Freedom To Be Found Dying Face Up On the Ground."
The silence turned to talk, sometimes angry talk, after arriving at the Hall of Justice when local residents took a microphone and urged the crowd to vote, to wonder if their black children would be safe growing up, to not just change the government but to change hearts, and not stay silent.
"We will not stop talking until you listen," one speaker said.
Law enforcement was present, with officers watching if not participating.
Police Sgt. Bullard elicited cheers when he held up a sign, "I Can't Breathe" with the names of 84 black people who have been killed by officers.
After the demonstration, Bullard said there were no arrests nor was anyone escorted from the event.
Later, a group of protesters walked east on East Second Street to Walmart, were turned away there, and began walking west.
Many of them walked in the driving lanes, a group of them sat in the middle of the intersection with East Wyoming Boulevard, then got up and continued west.
Casper Youth For Change disavowed its affiliation with the group in a statement Thursday afternoon. K2 Radio News is printing the statement verbatim:
"We have word that there are some protesters still downtown. Our protest finished around 12:55 PM MDT. We have no affiliation with these folks. We do support their right to continue protesting if things remain calm and peaceful.
"We’re so happy that today’s protest went well and remained peaceful. We’d like to thank everyone for their participation: the protesters who remained peaceful, the officers who protected us, and the community members of Casper. We realize some of you may have been concerned about property. We are proud to have carried out yet another protest that went smoothly and peacefully.
"With that being said, while the CYFC supports free speech for all youth, there were a few overly political comments made, including someone saying “F— Donald Trump”. The CYFC is a member of the Wyoming Association of Activists and has a commitment to nonpartisan organization and activism. Thus, understand that we cannot stand behind all comments made at the protest today.
'The CYFC will continue on our mission to empower youth voices in Casper through nonpartisan, peaceful activism. If you are a youth (13-25) in the Casper area (including Mills, Evansville, Bar Nunn, Casper Mountain, etc.) and would like to join, please join the group attached to our Facebook page.
"We hope the rest of everyone’s day and week is amazing and encourage you to attend the march put on by the SCLC. Thank you, Casper."
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