“All we can do is stand together,” said Loretta Kumire, a junior studying Communication. She didn’t feel like she had the right words to share during a vigil for George Floyd which saw over 150 people in attendance. Floyd died after an officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota knelt on his chest and neck for nine minutes. As Kumire spoke into a microphone, emotion came over her while remembering Floyd and all the others who have died at the hands of police brutality.
“It used to be a black problem,” Kumire said. “Now I think it’s everybody’s problem. All of us need to stand together and see what we can do to create change in the system.”
Kumire led the crowd in a two minute and 58 second moment of silence, representative of how long an officer kneeled on Floyd after he was unresponsive. Ten minutes before the vigil, Kumire asked Richard Luvhengo, a junior studying Computer Information Technology, to be the second speaker.
“I realized I have a responsibility to say something,” Luvhengo said. “I don’t want to remain silent.”
While Kumire wasn’t expecting anyone to attend, Luvhengo was specifically surprised by the turn out from white people, including Rexburg Mayor, Jerry Merrill.
Despite the event being organized too late to get a gathering permit, Mayor Merrill allowed it to go on as long as things remained peaceful. Luvhengo emphasized in his speech that it would not be a violent protest.
“I came because I wanted to be supportive of their message,” Merrill said. “There are minorities in this country that definitely get treated wrongly. We need to make sure that everybody gets the love and respect that they deserve.”
Merrill visited with the organizers to let them know that everyone in Rexburg is accepted. He asked the organizers if they feel comfortable in Rexburg, and according to Merrill they responded saying they “love Rexburg and feel great.”
A protest in Salt Lake City, Utah turned violent yesterday with graffiti lining the buildings and cars overturned and burned. Utah Governor, Gary Herbert, activated the National Guard and set an 8 p.m. curfew for the city.
Merrill was hopeful that things would remain peaceful in Rexburg but reached out to the police chief to make them aware of the vigil.
According to Merrill, “They didn’t feel like they need to be here standing guard.
“In Rexburg we just expect everybody to be respectful of everybody. Whether they’re black, white, brown, green or purple.”
Andrea Radke-Moss, a BYU-Idaho professor in the History department, brought her family to the vigil to show support to the Black Lives Matter movement and to show her kids it’s important to stand up for the justice of others.
“Supporting Black Lives Matter doesn’t mean that you don’t support police,” Radke-Moss said. “You can support police and hold them to a high standard of not using excessive force. I’ve known so many kids that have been the target of racism both here and in the church. I just feel like it’s important to draw attention to our problems of unconscious bias and unconscious racism.”
Radke-Moss believes that a lot of students and faculty feel the way she does but is disappointed by the things she sees on the Rexburg community Facebook page, which indicates not everyone in the community shares those same sentiments.