Several hundred people crowded around one of Oak Harbor’s busiest intersections over the weekend to loudly and peacefully protest police brutality against African-American people.
Black Lives Matter protests have been raging across the nation since a police officer in Minneapolis killed George Floyd.
This was the second rally in Oak Harbor organized by Whidbey Against Brutality and Racial Injustice, a recently formed group.
Organizer Sarah Griggs said that while she was surprised by the turnout last time, the dour weather and 24-hour notice didn’t help. This week, however, several hundred protestors displayed solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement — so many that the protestors spilled from the orange barricades that lined Beeksma Gateway Park at the intersection of State Highway 20 and Beeksma Drive.
They held up signs with messages of solidarity: “No justice, no peace,” “Silence is compliance,” “I can’t breathe” and “Come together right now.”
“So many people from the community that don’t even know who I am but saw the cause and wanted to help really showed out and showed up.” Griggs said. “The support is just amazing.”
Organizer Jabari Diggs said the protest was to show support for the Black community around the nation.
“Although Oak Harbor has not had any police brutality,” Diggs said, “we still want people that are not necessarily favorable of the black community to know that we matter. Every minority deserves that same respect and inclusion.”
Organizers coordinated with the Oak Harbor Police Department to make sure everyone remained safe. Oak Harbor police remained on scene for the duration of the event. Officers helped with some of the set up, chatted with protestors and posed with protestors for photos.
“The group down here is fantastic,” Chief Kevin Dresker said. “They’re providing their First Amendment message. That’s great. We endorse fair treatment for everybody by everybody.”
While passing motorists tended to honk their horns and cheer on the protestors, the occasional heckler would drive past. At least one car with a confederate flag prominently displayed was met with the repeated chanting of “Black Lives Matter.”
According to one of the organizers, Angelique Fuqua, the group worked nonstop every day to improve on last week’s demonstration based on suggestions they received.
“A lot of people said they wanted it more organized,” Fuqua said. “We needed more protection from the streets, the cars.”
So the group contacted the police department to provide the orange barriers around Beeksma Gateway Park.
“We didn’t want drivers that have a lack of attention to veer onto the sidewalk, or if somebody stumbled they wouldn’t fall into the roadway,” Dresker said. “We’re making sure everyone is safe.”