PALMER — A peaceful protest is planned in Palmer on Saturday supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in the wake of the death of 46-year-old George Floyd in Minneapolis on May 25 after more than eight minutes under the knee of Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin. Organizers of the Black Lives Matter protest in Palmer plan to gather at the pavilion in downtown Palmer from noon to 3 p.m., and march through the streets peacefully. The organizers of the peaceful protest have been granted a special assembly permit through the city of Palmer and acting city manager Brad Hanson said that the march route will not interfere with traffic and has been approved by the city.
“The organizers feel that we don’t want to draw any attention away from the movement and feel this isn’t about any one individual or group of people giving the movement a platform, it’s about the platform and the message itself,” wrote the organizers in a statement.
Following the death of Floyd last Monday, protests and marches calling for an end to police brutality have taken place around the world.
“We will march through downtown Palmer. Please wear a mask and keep safe distance while remaining a group. Bring hand sanitizer, bring ID, make signs and bring a megaphone or speaker. It is within our rights to peacefully protest. End white silence! Spread the word,” reads a flier produced by the organizers.
Recent Palmer High School graduate Aurora Till submitted the permit application and noted that space will be provided for counter-protesters that wish to attend. The organizers of the protest wish to support black, indigenous and persons of color in the Mat-Su and pose the question why black, indigenous and persons of color do not feel acceptance from the Mat-Su community.
“If it’s done peacefully and everybody respects other people regarding their views, and if they don’t agree with the view there’s a way to handle that and it’s not with violence,” said Palmer Mayor Edna DeVries.
DeVries was made aware of the peaceful protest on Tuesday and communicated with business owners in downtown Palmer who were concerned about whether to stay open.
“The thing I think that’s most concerning right now is the protest that is going to be held on Saturday, not that I’m concerned about the protest because I think that’s peoples right to be able to do that, but I am getting concerns from the business people downtown,” said DeVries.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy offered his first public statement on the death of George Floyd and resulting international outcry during his COVID-19 press conference on Wednesday. Dunleavy said that he was not fearful that a large gathering of people could result in a spike in positive cases of COVID-19, but that he was concerned and wanted those attending the peaceful protest to remain six feet apart and wear masks.
“Most health care experts believe that that is going to spread the virus, so when we have protests or get together in Alaska, we want to just be cognizant of that, of each other. There’s no reason why you can’t have a protest,” said Dunleavy.
The organizers did not wish to comment further on plans for the protest in Palmer or the numerous gatherings around the world to condemn police brutality, but expressed hope that those protesting with the Black Lives Matter movement and counter-protesters that have voiced opposition online since the flier was posted can both peacefully speak freely on Saturday.
“I don’t think there’s anybody that can watch that video for very long, I couldn’t, and not turn away and say that was horrific, that’s hugely hugely problematic, but again we’re lucky here in Alaska. We have protests. We should be able to express ourselves. I’m proud of Alaskans that do. I’m proud of Alaskans that support free speech. I’m proud of Alaskans that may not go to the get togethers, are still in support of our free speech,” said Dunleavy. “People absolutely have the right to protest, this is America. What occurred in Minneapolis when Mr. Floyd was killed in that police action, we all know was terrible.”