Last Friday’s march for the Black Lives Matter movement marked three weekends of demonstrations since George Floyd died at the hands of Minneapolis police officers.
And depending on who you asked, it had extra resonance because it took place on Juneteenth, or June 19, the day black Americans commemorate the end of slavery in the U.S.
The Juneteenth Rally and March for Justice didn’t draw massive numbers, but the hundreds that did join walked for several hours. They eventually blocked both sides of Las Vegas Boulevard before marching back.
It was peaceful, though Las Vegas Metro Police officers did arrest one participant.
Tia Coward, march co-organizer:
“For one, I think we need a new sheriff. The election of our current sheriff was already controversial when it happened. We need a new sheriff who more represents the people, that doesn’t have a history of racism or bad policing. We want reform.
You’re seeing other cities take the lead on these things. You’re seeing Colorado and qualified immunity. You’re seeing other places actually put out these legislations that are progressive and they’re actually making change whereas here, we’re just being told, ‘Let’s all just talk about it,’ even though we’ve talked about it a hundred times and there’s been no legislation passed except a backpack ban that harms protesters.”
"I do think that the narrative that most of us are trying to focus on is defunding of the police. That is looking at reallocating police budgets to different programs, community programs, mental health professionals, investing in communities of color as a way to help defeat crime because you're seeing a lot of crime in poverty areas."
Jessica Smith-Peterson, legal observer
"There were actually no visible officers while protesters were marching and calling for peace, which was very different than it has been in the past. Essentially, they would come if there was an issue or they showed up if there was something they foresaw as needing intervention, but for the most part, we didn't physically see officers."
"I was able to connect with one of the chief deputies on the ground to talk about any issues that they saw or that we had. There was also a conversation prior to the protest Friday with members of the National Lawyer's Guild, community partners like PLAN [Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada] and Mass Liberation and the ACLU of Nevada to essentially create the process that was used Friday."
Lawerence Weekly, Clark County Commissioner
"According to statute - no - [Metro Police] don't answer to us. The only thing we're responsible for is just allocating their budgets. There are some questions that I think this new commission will be talking to the legislature just trying to figure out because we're mandated that we have to allocate X percentage of their budget what gives us any kind of flexibility that we can say, 'Hey, we'd like to mandate that there be some more extensive training. That we'd like to allocate some of this budget to go toward this or go toward that, opposed to us just writing a check."
Claytee White, Director of Oral History Research Center at UNLV Libraries
"I think the possibilities are limitless for what this city can become. We can become a model of inclusion, diversity, equity in all systems."
"Yes, policing is very, very important, but I want to see a change in banking policies. I want to see a change in housing, health care in the entire legal system. I mean the police part of that, the court portion of that, probation, parole, sentencing that should be completely restructured."
"I think another I haven't mentioned yet is education. All of this has to be restructured. So our kids are not getting the same kind of education that we get in Green Valley, Spring Valley, Summerlin and other portions of the city. There is no equity there."
Dayvid Figler, defense attorney
"We hear a lot about training and retraining and allocation resources and all of that is very vital, but I think that there is just a certain culture. This culture of conflict. This culture of justifying actions. And it's really easy, on some level, for a police department to go and justify everything that they did claiming that all they were doing was enforcing laws and that they were operating within the rules. But they're the rules that they've created where maybe we've ceded a little too much discretion and they're their own gatekeepers."
The following photos and reporting were done by Chris Smith from Desert Companion and Zachary Green from State of Nevada:
Tia Coward, march co-organizer; Claytee White, Director of Oral History Research Center, UNLV Libraries; Dayvid Figler, defense attorney; Lawrence Weekly, commissioner, Clark County Commission; Jessica Smith-Peterson, legal observer