Hundreds of people marched down a Laramie thoroughfare on multiple nights this week to protest police brutality, joining nationwide protests sparked by the police killing of Minneapolis resident George Floyd and other black citizens around the nation.
Rivers of sign-carrying and fist-raising protesters streamed down both sides of Laramie’s Grand Avenue under summer skies that darkened with rain clouds but never let loose. Marchers stuck to the sidewalks as they passed the University of Wyoming campus before returning to a downtown plaza where they’d started.
Throughout the march and at its end, protesters echoed chants heard in cities and towns all over American in recent weeks. They chanted Floyd’s name and Breonna Taylor’s. Police in Louisville, Kentucky, shot and killed Taylor, an African-American medical worker, in her home while executing a search warrant in March.
Protesters also chanted “justice for Robbie,” a homegrown chant referring to the death of Laramie resident Robbie Ramirez. Derek Colling, an Albany County Sheriff’s Department officer with a history of violence, killed Ramirez during a confrontation following a traffic stop in November 2018.
Adrian Hargrow, a black resident of the small town of Rock River who said he marched for police accountability, was struck by the crowd size on June 3.
“I didn’t think there’d be this much support,” Hargrow said, “this being Wyoming.”
The crowd swelled further the next night.
Laramie’s marches have been peaceful. Organizers are urging participants to stick to the sidewalk and off the streets, and to avoid interactions that could incite violence in a group of counter protesters in pickup trucks. A handful of trucks, many flying American flags, sped by protestors on Grand Avenue on both June 3 and 4, and were seen blasting black exhaust smoke into the air, which enveloped marchers.
On June 4, a brief confrontation ensued between protesters, the truck drivers and an associated motorcycle driver at an intersection. Protesters chanted at the drivers and the cyclist, who revved their engines over and over before turning off the march route.
Opinions differed among protesters about whether a more disruptive protest would be more effective, one organizer told WyoFile — protesters in Casper, for example, blocked an intersection. But, ultimately, safety concerns for marchers and those they are marching for win out, Rihanna Kelver said. The organizers don’t want to antagonize the truck drivers, she said.
“We can’t assume their intentions aren’t going to be to initiate violence and especially violence against people of color [in the march],” Kelver said.