The USA, and even Western Europe, have been roiled by protests following the deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor for nearly a month now. Yesterday, a new round of protests for Black Lives Matter was launched here in Flagstaff, on Juneteenth, a day to celebrate the emancipation of America’s slaves. This day’s protest held a strong presence from Native activists who emotionally conveyed their solidarity with BLM and sisterhood as victims of police brutality and racial profiling.
This protest went for over two hours, beginning in the neighborhood of Sunnyside, before partially taking over the commercial thoroughfare of 4th street, and then the Rt 66 artery through town. This was another 100% peaceful protest that also respected social distancing and masked up. I feel very privileged to to document these activities in my new home and will continue to do so as the situation develops.
The topic of “Defund the Police” has come up as a slogan recently as the protests move into the political sphere. It’s a strong challenge to the current status quo, and cities across the country are reconsidering their relationships with their police departments. Here in Flagstaff, on the same day as the protests, it was announced that FPD’s budget would remain as is. There will be local elections in August and then again in November for Mayor and City Council if you live here and want to change who controls these allocations.
At a national level, nothing has yet been done, with competing bills introduced in the Democratic House and Republican Senate that are likely to clash and go nowhere. At utter absence of leadership at the top doesn’t help things (he’s off tonight spreading Corona down in Tulsa, Oklahoma). In the meanwhile, these protests look likely to continue until enough reform, up to and including defunding the police, is passed. The grassroots strength and rage is very real that a small city like Flag can turn out 200 people on short notice to shut down some of the busier roads here in town.