Hundreds gather to ‘Stand Together’ during unity walk in Idaho Falls
IDAHO FALLS – “Stand together, Idaho Falls,” the crowd chanted as they descended on the northeast corner of the greenbelt along the Idaho Falls Riverwalk Saturday afternoon.
Roughly 400 people gathered for a unity walk in honor of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota last month after he was apprehended for committing a nonviolent crime.
The half-mile walk started at the Museum of Idaho at 3 p.m. After arriving at the greenbelt, organizer Fernando Espinoza lead the group in a period of silence lasting eight minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time Floyd was pinned to the ground before he died.
Toni L. Carter, a local TEDx speaker, then addressed the crowd.
“When nationwide demonstrations began a few weeks ago in the wake of George Floyd’s death… America tried in vain to have these conversations about systematic and structural racism while our emotions were running high,” Carter said.
Now that the dust has settled, Carter feels society’s conversation about where to go from here has yet to be addressed.
Having this conversation in other parts of the country may be too much to ask, she says, but not in Idaho Falls.
“We can have these conversations. I’m convinced we can change this paradigm,” Carter says. “Our city is uniquely positioned to raise the bar on racial equity and to set the standard for other cities to emulate.”
As many held signs with phrases such as “Black Lives Matter,” “End Racism,” and “Justice for George,” others held signs containing messages against police brutality.
“If you look around you today at the policeman who are here… this is not the same as the rest of the country in some respects,” Idaho Falls City Councilman Jim Francis told the crowd. “Look at these people. Go talk to them, they are your friends. They will help you and they will listen.”
Others who addressed the crowd include Jeremy Herman, founder of the Citizens Accountability group and Dennis Patterson, former president of the Idaho Falls African American Alliance.
Mayor Rebecca Casper and Espinoza concluded the event with a few remarks as well.
Idaho Falls Police Chief Bryce Johnson began his remarks by acknowledging that “we are one big human family” and that “black lives do matter.”
“It is the duty of every police officer to safeguard the rights of every black citizen to their fundamental right of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” says Johnson.
Johnson says police officers are the only people in the country with the authority to take life, liberty and property without any prior judicial review, and people should expect that power to be used fairly and equally for everyone.
“There’s another half to that contract,” Johnson says. “If we teach our young kids that police officers are the enemy or to hate police officers, it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy and this violence will continue to spin and spiral and it will not help anyone.”
Johnson ended his remarks by inviting African American Alliance President David Snell, Mayor Casper, Carter and Espinoza to join him on stage.
“We may not have the same life experience, but we try to understand each other and we try to make this world a better place,” Johnson said.
WATCH HIGHLIGHTS OF THE RALLY IN THE VIDEO PLAYER ABOVE.