An estimated 150 to 200 people in Petersburg joined protests around the nation Sunday with a vigil remembering victims of police brutality.
Participants circled the Petersburg courthouse, most wearing masks and many holding signs saying black lives matter and calling for change. The group observed silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds to mark the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police in May and others who have been killed.
Chelsea Tremblay welcomed community members to the gathering in a steady drizzle
“I hope these moments brought you something you needed, maybe that you didn’t know you needed,” Tremblay said. “Maybe it was hard. And it’s important if it’s hard. If you’re comfortable, you need to be doing something about that. Now is the time to be uncomfortable. So if you’d like to be part of this conversation about what anti-racism looks like in our community, we have clip boards…”
Organizers took down contact information for those willing to continue the conversation and be involved.
Recent Petersburg High School graduate Kianna Kivisto, bound for college in Washington state this year, was among the participants.
“I’ve been talking to my friends and stuff and they’re like make sure you’re prepared, you know what to do when you’re in a situation like that, make sure you don’t get killed because of situation like that,” Kivisto said. “And I feel like I shouldn’t have to worry about preparing to go down south, just because of all that. Yeah, it’s not right.”
The rally was one of many held across the nation and in Alaska over the weekend. Jenny Winters was one of the organizers of Petersburg’s gathering.
“I want to be here for our black community,” Winters said. “I just want to let them know they’ve got allies here and that we stand with them.”
Another organizer was Bessie Johnson. “I guess my hope for this was to get more people involved and thinking about changes that need to happen and not just this particular moment but going forward too and a lot of people helped with organizing that and making it happen so hopefully it will be a continued conversation in our community,” Johnson said.
Organizers hope to continue the conversation here with an anti-racism book club and a group to talk about accountability in policing. They’re also open to other ideas from the community.