“I had to do something,” said Everett Willis, a sophomore studying communication.
He hopped on Facebook and saw protests and riots around the country. He saw his parents in D.C. participate in Black Lives Matter protests, and he knew he needed to join the cause. On May 31 he rode his bike from a closed Broulim’s to Walmart in search of chalk, but only found tape.
Willis then approached the corner of 1st West and 1st South, across the street from the Cedars apartments and Papa John’s, then began taping a rhetorical question to the sidewalk with his brother’s help. As he taped, people shouted support from the apartments, some watched from a balcony with no comment.
Others called out, “You guys are white.”
His tape ran out, and some girls showed up, interested in his message. They traveled to Walmart to purchase more tape and finished Willis’ statement.
“I wanted to bring awareness to some of the things that are happening,” Willis said. “A lot of people are misinformed, and a lot of people actually have no idea this stuff is happening.”
Willis, his brother, and new friends headed to Taco Bell, and he worried that the tape would eventually be removed. When they returned to the corner 10 minutes later, they found the balled-up remains sitting in the center.
He returned home, planning how he would prepare for the next day.
Cailin Russell, a senior studying art, saw a guy pulling something off of the street corner. She hadn’t seen Willis’ tape art, but later saw posts about it. She didn’t know Willis, but a friend suggested they recreate his message.
Russell and her friend Jaron Rose, a senior studying theatre, bought six boxes of chalk and asked others to help mark the sidewalk. Marcella Fa’amuli, a sophomore studying generals, came to help.
“I am black, I am gay, so just being a minority, you have to defend the small guys,” Rose said. “We’re taught to love one another, so here we are.”
Their chalk mural included scripture references, putting Willis’ initial message in the center.
Willis received a text message saying someone had chalked his statement on the same corner at Porter Park.
“I was so excited I came running out,” Willis said. “It was amazing, this awesome mural.”
Grey Woodhouse, the one behind Instagram’s restorebyui account sharing Black Lives Matter support happening in Rexburg, worried someone would ruin the chalked mural. She and Alexa Arndt, a BYU-Idaho alumna, walked to the corner and asked several people standing nearby if they supported the Black Lives Matter messages.
They did not.
Arndt had the idea to watch the corner from a balcony at the Cedars apartments. As they staked out, a student that had been circling around on a dirt bike earlier that day had a bucket with him.
“I bet he’s going to throw a bucket of water on it,” Woodhouse said.
As soon as he reached for the bucket, Woodhouse ran down to the mural while Arndt filmed it. Water splashed on the mural before Woodhouse could make it.
A soaked dead mouse rested in the center.
Woodhouse saw where the unidentified student went and confronted him. She said he insisted the mural was a social media stunt.
“I’m white, you’re white, and we can’t explain how black people feel,” Woodhouse said.
She posted a live video on Instagram calling out the student who later returned to the corner where they again chalked their support and apologized, according to Woodhouse.
“Last night wasn’t just a bucket of water,” Arndt said. “It was a representation of the ideologies that are preserved year after year, that never change.”
They formed as a group and decided to take their chalk to the sidewalk again on Monday night.
“We’re back today to rebel against the people that are causing pain, and aren’t letting us build to a solution,” Willis said. “This is a peaceful protest, and a lot of people can’t even handle this.”
Monday night’s chalk was mostly scrubbed away by Tuesday morning. Allegedly a BYU-I employee cleaned the sidewalk.