“We want reform. We want trust. We want transparency. We want truth.”
There were no guns. There were no thugs. There was no violence.
Two days after Fargo Mayor Tim Mahoney declared a state of emergency in advance of the JuneTeenth March for Justice organized by Black Lives Matter – Fargo/Moorhead (BLM-FM) because of what he called “imminent danger” for the community, there was only peaceful protest and a march from Island Park to Fargo (N.D.) City Hall and back.
Above all, there was solidarity among the 300-350 people who, in the words of one event organizer, “showed up, showed out” to commemorate Juneteenth, protest police brutality and talk about justice for black people and other people of color in Fargo.
Mahoney was quoted in The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead the day before the protest and march, saying the city was in “‘imminent danger of suffering civil disturbance, disorder, riot’ and other threats from OneFargo and Black Lives Matter protests this weekend.”
The Facebook event page for JuneTeenth March for Justice listed Anyiwei Maciek, Sica Mason, Wess Philome and Angelina Sam Teewon as the event’s hosts, and they weren’t about to let that happen.
Not that any of the protesters had violence on their minds in the first place. Only justice.
Around 9 a.m. this morning, protesters began gathering around the gazebo in Island Park to celebrate the emancipation of slaves in 1865 in Texas and address rocky relations between the city of Fargo, the Fargo Police Department and BLM-FM.
Organizers warmed up the crowd with music by Rationale, Kendrick Lamar and Bob Marley singing “Buffalo Soldier” –
Buffalo Soldier, dreadlock Rasta
There was a Buffalo Soldier
In the heart of America
Stolen from Africa, brought to America
Fighting on arrival, fighting for survival
Then Philome began to speak.
First, he criticized the mayor for issuing the emergency declaration.
“When I look around, all I see is peaceful people. Am I right?” Philome said, and his statement received a raucous response from the protesters. “When I look around I don’t see people who want to throw rocks or break into buildings. Am I right? When I look around, all I see is the community of Fargo that genuinely wants change.”
Philome also referred to a tense discussion between BLM-FM, city officials and the FPD earlier this week, a recording of which was released to the public over Facebook on Friday. Much of that conversation focused on the actions and subsequent FPD internal investigation and resignation of Todd Osmundson, former assistant police chief during the May 30 Black Lives Matter protest in Fargo.
During that conversation, Mahoney asked Philome and other BLM-FM leaders, “Are you the true leaders of Black Lives Matter?… Some people are concerned that you’re not fully representing the people of Black Lives Matter.”
After another BLM-FM leader spoke up and said she was one of the true leaders, Mahoney asked, “Where do you want to go in Fargo-Moorhead? Do you want to go forward or do you want to go backward?”
At Island Park today, Philome said, “All we want is the truth and all we want is change. And we can have that as a community without going backwards, Mayor Mahoney.”
He continued, “We’re not going to sit here and celebrate one day and not fight for genuine change the next. That’s just not going to happen. We want reform. We want trust. We want transparency. We want truth.”
Mahoney took the microphone briefly to announce a proclamation designating Juneteenth as a holiday in Fargo.
“I came by here to do a proclamation for Juneteenth. I came by because we in the city of Fargo and the city of Moorhead feel that is very important,” he said. “Whenever you do a proclamation in your city, that’s recognizing something that’s important to your citizens.”
He also announced another meeting scheduled for Wednesday, June 24, at Fargo City Hall between city leaders and OneFargo/BLM-FM.
Following the speeches, the BLM-FM organizers led protesters on the march to Fargo City Hall.
There was no violence during the march. When protesters arrived at City Hall, all the blinds had been drawn. Whether it was the city’s intention or not, the perception among protesters was that the city had closed its eyes to their calls to action.
While there, Philome addressed the protesters once again.
“This country has to start seeing us as people,” Philome said. “Fargo has to start seeing us as people. North Dakota has to start seeing us as people. The United States has to start seeing us as people. The world has to start seeing us as people. The universe has to start seeing us as people!”
Following more chanting –
What do we want? / Justice! / When do we want it? / Now!
No justice, no peace! Prosecute the police!
Say his name! / George Floyd!
– the protesters marched back to Island Park, again with zero violence.
Back at Island Park, BLM-FM leaders and protesters redubbed it as “Justice Island,” chanting the new name back and forth from the gazebo to the people across the surrounding lawn.
“When I say Justice, you say Island!”
“Justice!” / “Island!”
“Justice!” / “Island!”
“Justice!” / “Island!”
So it was, and so it now is.
BLM-FM has scheduled another march for tomorrow, Saturday, June 20, 2020, beginning at 10 a.m. at the Jeff Johnson Soccer Complex at 1420 11th Avenue North, south of the North Dakota State University campus, and ending at the Cass County Jail.