PALMER — At the vigil for victims of police brutality and protest in Palmer on Saturday, recent Mat-Su Borough School District graduates took the stage.

Mat-Su Career and Technical High School graduate Reggie Drummond was the first to take the microphone in front of a crowd of thousands huddled around the pavilion in downtown Palmer. After much speculation in the five days between announcing the protest and when people gathered on Saturday morning, crowds remained peaceful, but were not silent. As the first in a lineup of young people of color who spoke before the massive crowd, Drummond spoke about a condition.

“When you’re born person of color you’re born into a world that will never treat you the same as others. What do I do when I don’t feel safe in an area because there is no one like me around. What do I do about that because if I go and I say hey he’s not treating me right this kid is giving me bad vibes I don’t like this, what are they going to do about it? All right let’s give him a slap on the wrist and let him go. What happens if I fight back, I’m the bad guy. We’re here to change that,” said Drummond to a raucous applause.

A 2020 graduate of Palmer High School, 18-year-old Aurora Till, applied for and was granted a special assembly permit with the city of Palmer early last week to hold Saturday’s protest. Till estimated that 100 people would show up. A count done of a drone photo of the gathered mass in Palmer on Saturday came in around 1,500 participants, but the march added to the long train of people as they walked up the path on South Valley Way and down the sidewalk on South Alaska Street.

“It means so much to me that we can come together as a community right now. Let’s march,” said Till.

Till spoke sparingly, opening the protest by asking people to respect social distancing before handing the microphone off to her black, indigenous people of color organizers. The young organizers led thousands in peaceful chants under the pavilion and marched down the streets of Palmer making their voices heard. Drummond was the first of many on Saturday who were moved to tears by the demonstration of support for black, indigenous and people of color in the Mat-Su Valley, composing himself standing atop a table with thousands in support gathered around him to hear his message.

“How am I supposed to be confident in a system made to protect my rights if it’s the same system killing me,” said Drummond. “We’re here to change that...We’re here so that every person regardless of race is treated the same, is looked at the same, because of what I wear because of the skin color because of my hair, I should not be looked at different.”

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