Alaska’s capital city saw its largest anti-racist protest in recent memory today in solidarity with actions for black lives worldwide.
Word of the protest spread through word-of-mouth and without public advertising. Overnight, the words Black Lives Matter were written in letters spanning several feet in front of the Governor’s Mansion and the State Capitol. Several hundred people turned out at Marine Park in downtown Juneau for the second large-scale demonstration since national actions began May 26.
The protest started at Marine Park with organizers, who withheld their names because they wanted the focus to be on their message, not individuals.
“We are not here for your entertainment. Hold space for us. We are mourning,” said one speaker. “We are here to recognize what kind of power we have within ourselves — the power to change things.”
Organizers read the names of black and brown lives lost to police violence. They also spoke about long-standing race issues in Juneau, namely in public education and the state criminal justice system. They repeatedly led the crowd in chanting “Juneau is not immune.”
They also announced a list of demands for local and state governments.
Here’s what organizers of Juneau’s rally are demanding of law enforcement. pic.twitter.com/eufrSjI9fP
— Rashah McChesney (@RashahMcChesney) June 6, 2020
Following the speakers, protesters marched northward to the beat of tribal drums and the near-constant honking from passing traffic. They chanted as they crossed the Juneau-Douglas bridge and, upon their return, they dropped flowers in the Gastineau Channel to honor the memory of black lives lost.
This is the 11th day of protests that have swept the nation following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed while being arrested by Minneapolis police. A widely circulated video shows a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for almost nine minutes while he lay facedown in the street, begging for his life and telling officers that he could not breathe.
Marie Johnson said she attended the protest because she believes the Minneapolis police were wrong in killing George Floyd.
“I just want to back everybody up,” she said. “We all live in a small community. There shouldn’t be any racism.”
The Tlingit and Haida Central Council also held a virtual rally this morning in solidarity with the statewide protests. The rally included black and native voices and discussions on the tribes’ standing with the Black Lives Matter movement.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story was headlined “Anti-racist march draws largest Juneau protest in recent memory.” There have been other large protests in Juneau in the past five years, but no marches or protests related to the Black Lives Matter movement or other anti-racist causes have drawn such large crowds. We’ve updated the headline to clarify the nature of the protest and the fact that public awareness of the event happened word-of-mouth. The first line of the story has also been updated to reflect this.