For one hour out of the week, the Langley bunnies of Cascade Avenue have been ceding the long strip of grass facing the Puget Sound to a different group — protesters.
It’s become a weekly tradition established by a Facebook group known as POWER, People of Whidbey Elegantly Resisting, three and a half years ago in response to the Trump administration. Since then the protesters have rallied peacefully in support of sanctuary cities, women’s rights and gun control.
During the past two weeks, the 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. protest has focused on Black Lives Matter.
“It’s been a number of things to people over time, depending on what’s happening,” said organizer Diane Jhueck. “I really hope that this last horrific murder means that Black Lives Matter issues will now sustain.”
Sunday, June 7 was the first time the protesters had gathered since before COVID restrictions were implemented. The core group of 20 was surprised to find themselves joined by many others.
In total, Jhueck said there were 160 people present for the protest.
But this past Sunday saw 98 protesters.
“That’s expected. It will be less the week after,” Jhueck said. “It’s interesting that sustaining your energy for protests can be a hard thing.”
The spot across the street from the Saratoga Inn attracted national attention from tourists, who have joined the protests themselves in the past.
Arizona native Tayven Lewis noticed the protest while visiting his grandparents in Langley.
“I think it’s really powerful, I think it’s meaningful and I think it’s important because we have to take a stand against evil, against something that’s been going on for hundreds of years,” Lewis said about the protest.
His grandfather Richard Draves accompanied him at the last protest, also for the first time. Draves said he has seen the weekly gatherings on Cascade Avenue for years and has always admired them, and with his grandson visiting, felt it was a good opportunity to express themselves.
Clinton resident Claudia Fuller stands on the grass with a sign that has a picture of her three-year-old grandson Elijah, with the words “Don’t shoot my grandson. Black Lives Matter.”
“It’s very heartening to see lots of young people getting involved and the new energy,” she said.
Fuller raised her family on Whidbey. Her son and his wife realized it was not a diverse place to raise their own family, however, and decided to move elsewhere.
“It was a white bread place to raise my son,” Fuller said. “We have not been living with people of color, and so the opportunity to have conversations with people of color has been lacking.”
Jhueck acknowledged the demographics of South Whidbey trend towards white, wealthy retirees, especially for those protesting weekly in Langley. She encourages people of color to take the lead and for POWER to be an ally when that happens.
She admires the Oak Harbor Black Lives Matter protests, which have been spearheaded by women of color from Whidbey Against Brutality and Racial Injustice, or WABARI.
While there hasn’t been a plan to join forces, North Whidbey residents have come to the Langley protest, and vice versa. County commissioner candidates have even turned up without advertising who they are to stand in solidarity.
“There’s a lot of people that say, why Langley?” South Whidbey resident Merran Gray said.
Maybe the Langley protests aren’t as spectacular as the ones happening in Seattle, but Gray pointed to the importance of small-town protests in rural communities.
Like others present, she has found the weekly ritual to be energizing. Jhueck said she hopes protesting may be the turning point in the fight against racial injustice and police brutality.
Even the regular hecklers have become less vocal over the last two weeks.