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Juneteenth March Extends Black Lives Matter Protests Into Week 3

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Chris Smith/Desert Companion

Protesters gather in Las Vegas on June 19, 2020.

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.

Discussion Highlights:

Tia Coward, march co-organizer:

Support comes from

“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:

 

Officer Kelvington of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, reads a statute describing prohibited items from protests, which included signs made of wood that could be used as shields, which the protestors had on-site at Commercial Center. After calling in backup patrol cars and officers, those wooden shields were then confiscated by police. 

Rochelle Devore displays her sign as a crowd gathers at Commercial Center for the Juneteenth march. June 19, 2020.  

Black Lives Matter start their march at Commercial Center in celebration of Juneteenth. June 19, 2020.  

The Black Lives Matter march down Las Vegas Blvd. on  June 19, 2020. The protest was peaceful and without a police presence for the majority of the journey down Las Vegas Blvd.

People watch the protesters as they walk under a pedestrian bridge at Fashion Show Mall headed south on Las Vegas Blvd., Friday June 19, 2020.

A protester live streams Black Lives Matter organizer Zyera Dorsey (pink shirt) as she addresses the protesters outside Fashion Show Mall, while visitors to Las Vegas and mall patrons watch on. June 19, 2020. 

A lone man, who only identified himself as Patrick, confronts protesters outside of the CVS store at T.I. Hotel and Casino on Las Vegas Blvd. The march had remained without conflict up until this point.  June 19, 2020.

A lone man, who only identified himself as Patrick, flashes a hand gesture that has been associated with white supremacy as he is being asked to leave the area outside of  T.I. Hotel and Casino on Las Vegas Blvd. by one of the organizers of the event. June 19, 2020

Protesters walk in front of Caesars Palace during the Juneteenth Black Lives Matter march. June 19, 2020

Black Lives Matter organizer Zyera Dorsey (pink shirt) shouts protest slogans to fellow protesters as they stand on Las Vegas Blvd., obstructing traffic in both directions for roughly 20 minutes during the Juneteenth march. June 19, 2020. 

Protesters stand in Las Vegas Blvd., during the Juneteenth Black Lives Matter march. They impeded traffic for roughly 20 minutes and this was the first time that metro had engaged the protesters on the strip. June 19, 2020.

A protester kneels in front of the police formation line as one of the organizers of the Black Lives Matter march, asks the police how they could comply with their orders to disperse. Police gave several dispersal orders during the march telling the protesters to head north on Las Vegas Blvd., only to be met by a police formation line at the Linq Hotel and Casino on Las Vegas Blvd., protesters kneeled with their hands up as they continued to try and get clarification on how to obey the dispersal order which led to tensions rising from the protesters and eventually police rushing them and trampling kneeling protesters to make several arrests. June 19, 2020.  

Several Metro Police officers, wearing riot gear, rushed and trampled kneeling protesters as they try to make arrests during the Juneteenth Black Lives Matter march on Friday, June 19, 2020. The march had been peaceful for the most part until protesters stood on Las Vegas Blvd., outside of the Bellagio Hotel and Casino, which led to the police making their presence shown for the first time that night. Tensions escalated as the police gave several different orders for dispersing. One order was to disperse north on Las Vegas Blvd., which the protesters were peacefully doing until they were met by a police formation line at the Linq Hotel and Casino. Protesters asked for a supervisor and clarification on how exactly the police wanted them to disperse. After about 10 minutes of protesters asking how they could comply, the police in riot gear descended on the crowd of protesters. 

 

Guests

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

 
 

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