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More than marching: creative support for Black Lives Matter

In addition to the vigils, marches and protests taking place daily in the streets and parks of Olympia after the death of George Floyd, groups and organizations throughout our area found ways to make clear that they want the Black Lives Matter movement to continue; to grow and succeed. Here are a few examples of what else happened:

Grays Harbor Strong

In the days immediately following the murder of George Floyd, sole individuals and small groups showed up at Zelasco Park in Aberdeen to protest his death. Since then there have been more protest rallies, vigils and marches in support of the Black Lives Matter movement in Hoquiam, Ocean Shores and Aberdeen. As few as 20 and more than 100 people gathered to make their views known first by showing up and then on dozens of signs they carried. These ranged from “All lives can’t matter until black lives matter,” to “Rednecks against police brutality,” and the reminder: “White privilege doesn’t mean your life hasn’t been hard. It means the color of your skin isn’t one of the things that makes it harder.” — Reported by Dana Stumpf Bear Dietz

North Thurston making black lives matter

On June 19, students from all over North Thurston were on Martin Way from 10:30 – 5pm, waving signs promoting actions to support black lives: hire more black teachers, mandate black history and ethnic studies, end zero-tolerance discipline and fund counselors not cops, among other goals. Dozens of students signed up for 2-hour shifts, wore masks and observed social distance and made their points as drivers passed, honking and waving in response. Organizers from the River Ridge Black Students Union reported an overwhelming positive response from active participants, local businesses and community supporters.

United Churches of Olympia

On Juneteenth, members and others from United Churches of Olympia met in the parking lot at 11th and Capitol Blvd. to kneel for 8 minutes and 46 seconds to express their grief for lives lost due to racism and to show solidarity with Black Lives Matter. About 50 people gathered, wept and prayed for peace and healing. Numerous similar actions are still occurring across the state.

Downtown Olympia murals

When Olympia Mayor Cheryl Selby and City staff suggested that businesses board up their storefronts because “outsiders” were coming to Olympia to “wreak havoc,” an unintended consequence was the appearance of protest art throughout the downtown. Overnight, people created a dozen or more murals, ranging from elegant backgrounds for listing the names of those killed by police, to classic “graffiti-style” messages. A stand-out was a mural featuring George Floyd painted by Robert Upham.

Yvonne McDonald’s birthday party

Music, candlelight and a joyous vigil celebrating the “heavenly” birthday of deceased Olympian Yvonne McDonald took place in front of City Hall on June 23. The event served as a reminder that McDonald’s death was minimized and mishandled by the Olympia Police Department. Yvonne’s friends and relatives continue to demand a full investigation.

Orca Books sheltered protesters

Orca Books Co-op along with other downtown businesses decorated their storefront with signs and banners promoting the Black Lives Matter movement with posters in remembrance of those slain by the police. They opened their doors to protestors, offering water, a bathroom, a safe place to rest. Early in June, Orca Books Co-op had a rock through a window during a protest and in response they simply replaced the window. Orca Books Co-op engages first hand with its belief that people matter more than property: maybe it’s not the most fun to cover up graffiti or fix a broken window, but it’s better to deal with that than to see civilians harmed or killed at the hands of armed militia or the police.

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