Protesters took to the streets of Laramie and Gillette again on Thursday as nationwide demonstrations continued to protest the death of a Minnesota man in police custody.
In Laramie, where protesters have vowed to continue demonstrations through the week, calls for police accountability were punctuated by comments regarding Robbie Ramirez, a Laramie man shot in 2018 as he scuffled with police during a traffic stop.
In Gillette, “Black Lives Matter” protesters and people carrying signs reading “All lives matter” marched peacefully along the same route through the community.
Laramie protests continue with reference to local shooting
By Jeff Victor
Via Wyoming News Exchange
LARAMIE — The crowd at its height numbered several hundred. As the marchers finished their long walk to 15th Street and back, a mass of protesters gathered around organizers in the First Street Plaza.
In the midst of the crowd, one could hear the chants that carried the marchers halfway across Laramie: “No justice, no peace, no racist police,” “Say his name!
George Floyd.” “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
“Say her name! Breonna Taylor.”
The peacefully assembled masses held signs reading “Black Lives Matter” and “Justice for Robbie.” Some carried flags and nearly everyone’s mouth and nose were covered by a mask or bandana — grim reminders of the global pandemic’s ever-present and ongoing threat.
Spilling out into the street on either side and even onto the footbridge, an unidentified individual shouted, “F*** Derek Colling.” Dozens, if not hundreds, took up the chant, repeating the explicit phrase in the rhythmic cadence of protest calland- responds.
“F*** Derek Colling! F*** Derek Colling! F*** Derek Colling!”
The march Thursday evening was not specifically for Robbie Ramirez — the unarmed man shot and killed in 2018 by Deputy Derek Colling of the Albany County Sheriff ’s Office. But marchers said the local tragedy — and Colling’s continued employment with the Sheriff ’s Office — is one instance of the larger systemic issues they are rallying against.
In the wake of high-profile police killings — George Floyd in Minneapolis, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and countless other black Americans in every state of the union — massive crowds have turned out to protest in every major American city, decrying the racism and lack of accountability they say characterizes modern police departments.
Though a city of less 40,000, Laramie turned out its own massive crowd for the show of solidarity Thursday, the third straight night of such demonstrations in the Gem City of the Plains.
For Jessica Schillinger, one of hundreds who made the trek up and down Grand Avenue, police accountability is as prevalent an issue in Wyoming as anywhere else.
“Derek Colling needs to be taken out of the sheriff ’s department,” Schillinger said. “People need to be held accountable for killing people in our own town.”
The marchers expressed their anger, excitement and sorrow with the same chants heard round the country, mixed with their own specifically local calls of justice for Robbie Ramirez.
Though the march was not organized by Albany County for Proper Policing — also known as ACoPP — the group was present Thursday, seeking signatures on a petition to decertify Colling. ACoPP was founded in the wake of Ramirez’s death and has been seeking what it views as overdue justice for the slain young man ever since.
Amanda Pittman, a board member for the organization, was collecting signatures as the march finished in the First Street Plaza.
“It’s still really raw for a lot of people in town,” Pittman said of Ramirez’s death. “It’s really frustrating that nothing was done. Literally nothing was done.”
Pittman said she hopes the renewed focus on police accountability can be turned into action.
“Marches are really important, but we also need the boring, not as sexy, not as flashy work — and that’s advocacy,” Pittman said. “I hope people remember that they have power and continue pushing for change every single day. We shouldn’t wait for the next shooting to do something.”
Protesters plan to hit the streets again tonight, and keep marching each night through Sunday. The number of marchers has so far substantially grown with each passing day.
No violence at competing Gillette protests
By Gregory Hasman
Gillette News Record
Via Wyoming News Exchange
GILLETTE — Violence did not erupt among "Black Lives Matter" protesters and President Donald Trump and "All Lives Matter" supporters Thursday evening as had been the case in many parts of the United States in the last several days.
Each side, however, made their views known.
Protesters marched on foot or drove in their vehicles. Some carried flags, wore bulletproof vests and held semi-automatic weapons with the hopes of protecting businesses from being looted.
Others held up signs reading "No justice, no peace," shouted "Black Lives Matters" and/or took a knee. It was in reference to George Floyd, a handcuffed black man who pleaded for air as a white Minneapolis police officer pressed a knee on his neck May 25. Floyd died from the injuries.
The protesters were escorted by law enforcement from the Gillette Police Department and Campbell County Sheriff's Office. Some were members of the SWAT team.
"We are privileged people and a lot of people can't voice their opinion because of the color of their skin so we might as well use our privilege to do something good for the state of Wyoming and the world in general," protester Austin Dunbar said.
People from both sides took a 4.5-mile loop to and from the Campbell County Courthouse through Lasting Legacy Park and onto 4J Road and Fourth Street.
"We're here for America," Cole Porter said while walking. "We are pro-Trump but we put America first. We do believe that 'Black Lives Matter.' We believe that 'All Lives Matter' as well. We're for America. We're not here to start a fight we're not here to protest a protest. We are here because we love America."
As night fell at the courthouse, residents drove up and down Gillette Avenue honking their horns, revving their engines, waving flags and shouting their support to each group.