Demonstrators continue to gather in cities across Montana in response to the recent death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
In Bozeman, over 1,000 people came out for a rally and march against racism and police brutality on Sunday. In videos from event organizers, people carried signs reading “I can’t breathe” and “Support Black Bozeman” to the steps of the Gallatin County Courthouse.
The non-violent “Bozeman Rally for Black Lives” was organized by the Montana State University Black Student Union and the Montana Racial Equity Project, a Bozeman-based non-profit. The event post on Facebook said the gathering was intended to “make our grief and rage public and to demand that our country live up to its promise of freedom and justice for all.”
Protests popped up across the country after George Floyd, a black man, died while in police custody in Minneapolis on May 25. A video shows a white police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for at least seven minutes before his body goes limp. The police officer was arrested Friday and charged with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Three other officers were present but have not been charged.
Judith Heilman, the founder and executive director of the Montana Racial Equity Project, was one of the speakers at the Bozeman rally. She told YPR that racism is not just a black, brown or indigenous issue.
“Everybody has to be involved in the eradication of racism, bigotry and prejudice of all the systems, whether it be individual, whether it be educational, whether it be health, criminal justice, policing, the carceral system, all those things,” Heilman said.
She said white people need to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and learn how to push back against racism. The Montana Racial Equity Project offers workshops and trainings on issues like implicit bias and the history of the racial wealth gap. The organization also provides consultations with law enforcement agencies across the state.
“We’ll continue talking with people; we’ll continue motivating them; we’ll continue providing resources for them, talking to local law enforcement agencies about how will you make sure that none of your officers do what happened to George Floyd, what happened to Brianna Taylor,” Heilman said.
Locally organized demonstrations also took place in Billings, Missoula, Helena, Great Falls and Havre in recent days.
A Black Lives Matter Day of Action is scheduled in Bozeman on June 5.