In the wake of the death of George Floyd- an unarmed black man who was killed by a Minneapolis Police Officer last week- protests, rallies, riots and looting have taken place across the country.
Here in Scottsbluff, two separate events were held Sunday night. Both events were peaceful, and both aimed to raise awareness about racism and opposition to police brutality.
One of those events was hosted by Panhandle Equality at Centennial Park in Scottsbluff. That event included a candlelight vigil, the reading of names of people who have been killed by law enforcement, and people sharing their personal stories.
The second event was a peaceful march organized by Jose Gonzalez that originated at the Guadalupe Center. He says the march was in response to Floyd’s death.
“I decided we needed to act,” explains Gonzalez. “We need to be Americans and make those responsible for what they did responsible for what they did. It’s not fair, it’s unjust.”
He says this was a march for justice, but emphasized it needed to remain peaceful and condemned the riots that have made national headlines over the past few days.
“Every city is going to act differently, but we need to step up when things like this happen,” adds Gonzalez. “And I don’t care how small of a community this is, we are a community and we will continue to be a community.”
He says that there are multiple issues that need to be addressed; including racism in America and police across the country using excessive force.
“I think as a nation as a whole, we need to let everybody else know that little Scottsbluff, Nebraska hears you. And I felt the pain too.”
For this march, there were signs that read, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind,” “We’re not trying to start a race war, we’re trying to end one,” and, “I can’t breathe.”
Shortly after 6 p.m., the marchers headed north to East Overland, up through Broadway, and then returned towards the Guadalupe Center. During the march, participants chanted, “No Justice, No Peace,” “George Floyd,” and “Justice for George.”
The Scottsbluff Police Department was aware of the two events, and Chief Kevin Spencer commended the participants for keeping everything peaceful.
“We respect their right to assemble, so we’re just grateful they did it peaceful,” explains Spencer. “I think they took care of themselves and kept themselves safe and we were here to keep them safe and keep the peace. I think it went well.
Spencer says there was a group of diesel trucks that were driving by the marchers and accelerated, blowing exhaust on the crowd. He says they stopped two drivers for doing that, and both were cited.