As protests sparked by George Floyd’s death continued across the country and world for a second week, people gathered in Wyoming communities big and small to express outrage at racial injustice, support Black Lives Matter and rally for a number of ancillary causes.
Many have taken a knee or stood in silence for eight minutes to recognize the length of time a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on the neck of Floyd, the African American whose subsequent death set off a wave of protests across America and prompted a nationwide debate about police reform.
Wyoming events have been largely peaceful, even as counter-protesters and armed civilians often observe from the margins. Though early protests in cities such as Minneapolis and Oakland led to riots, no Wyoming protests have reportedly escalated into violence or property destruction.
Many have been one-time rallies or vigils, but others — such as the nightly marches in Laramie — will continue until change unfolds, organizers say. Organizers there are working on a list of demands to local officials, they say. Protesters in Laramie and in Jackson have blocked intersections.
Many protesters have worn face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but some came with bare faces. Gatherings several times exceeded the statewide health limits set by Gov. Mark Gordon, who has ordered that crowds be limited to no more than 250. Roughly 500 people attended a rally in Sheridan, an estimated 700 came to a protest in Jackson and some 1,000 gathered for a vigil in Casper.
Gordon expressed support Wednesday for citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights and said he has not encouraged law enforcement to cite protesters for violating the state health orders.
“I respect the right, and appreciate the intent of all those who have spoken out, even if it is against decisions I have made,” Gordon said in a Facebook post.
However, he urged caution.
“Large gatherings of people do involve significant health risks and this risk has been identified both locally and nationally,” Gordon said in the post. “I encourage those who choose to participate in peaceful protests to practice social distancing and wear face coverings as much as possible. It is my hope and desire that we do not see additional infections and cases of COVID-19 in Wyoming due to the recent protests.”
Wyoming will carefully monitor the rate of infection over the next few weeks, he said.
Some people brought signs that touched on other Wyoming issues, like Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and the death of Laramie resident Robbie Ramirez at the hands of Albany County Sheriff’s deputy Derek Colling.
Some called for an end to mass incarceration and police brutality. Others showed their support for black lives, LGBTQ pride, veterans and trans people.
— Angus M. Thuermer, Jr. and Andrew Graham contributed reporting to this story.