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Marchers Demand Justice In Response To SPD’s Handling Of Black Unity Protest

Melorie Begay/KLCC News

At least 100 protesters marched in solidarity with Black Unity (B.U.) in Springfield on Thursday. Marchers criticized the Springfield Police Department for hitting and dragging some protesters while making arrests at Wednesday’s B.U. protest. They also claim SPD failed to fairly police counter protesters. 

The protest was not planned by B.U.; it was organized by Isiah Wagoner and Moses Jackson who both have connections with B.U.. Wagoner is a former leader of B.U., while Jackson had previously led the group “BLM Eugene” which many B.U. leaders were a part of before leaving to form B.U..

After gathering outside Safeway on Q Street, marchers made their first stop at Mayor Christine Lundberg’s residence. 

“As mayor it’s my job to make sure everyone has a sense of safety and security and I understand people don’t have that now,” Lundberg said after stepping outside her house to address protesters.

Lundberg said she is looking into starting a “Blue Ribbon” panel. Blue Ribbon panels, or committees, are groups that analyze and report back on certain issues. 

Lundberg did not specify what a potential committee would study, but suggested the creation of one is being postponed because of the pandemic. 

Credit Melorie Begay/KLCC News
Springfield Mayor Christine Lundberg address protesters outside her residence on July 30. Lundberg said she supports both police officers and protesters, she also stated “Black lives matter and all lives matter.”

Protesters were then invited to ask the mayor questions. One protester asked about her thoughts on SPD’s treatment of protesters on Wednesday. She was also asked whether she happened to see any video to which she responded “yes.”

“Right now I think everything is really unfortunate in what’s happening,” she said. Lundberg explained she’s received emails from community members both in support of police and denouncing police.

“I have to weigh everything. What I’m asking is that if everyone, and that includes the police, if we can try and do this peacefully,” she said.

Lundberg was also asked by a protester if she viewed actions by police as misconduct. She replied that she needs more information, but she supports police and represents a “varied” community. 

Before marchers continued on, Wagoner asked if he could get a “Black lives matter” from Lundberg.

She responded with “Black lives matter and all lives matter.” 

Several members of the group reacted with audible disappointment and many could be heard saying “no.”

Wagoner then urged the group to continue marching despite the unpopular response from the mayor. 

For protester Nafisuh Timmons, Lundberg’s answers were insufficient.

Credit Melorie Begay/KLCC News
Nafisah Timmons marching with protesters in Springfield in July 30.

  “I think she was trying to take a neutral position, which I don’t think in this case you’re allowed to take,” Timmons said. She added Lundberg had to have seen video footage.

In footage from a Tre Stewart livestream, SPD officers can be seen dragging two protesters, including B.U. leader Tyshawn Ford out from a scrum of protesters and police officers. Ford, still on the ground and restrained by two officers, was then struck near his head by another officer.

“The cops are the ones that are instigating, they’re dragging people, and [Lundberg’s] comment was ‘I have to see more,’ and ‘I support our police,’” Timmons said. “I don’t think she’s going to hold them accountable.”

Timmons lives in Eugene but works in Springfield. She said she doesn’t feel safe in Springfield as a Black person and hopes to never encounter SPD.

“If you are anti-protester or all lives matter, I think you just look at the different sides...Just because you haven’t [experienced police brutality] doesn’t mean that other people have not,” Timmons said.

Credit Melorie Begay/KLCC News
Protesters in support of Black Unity make their way down Q Street in Springfield on July 30. The protest was held in response to a July 29 Black Unity protest where SPD was criticized for their handling of the event.

Marchers eventually made their way to the Springfield Police Department where organizers gave short speeches to protesters who had taken a seat.

“I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again,” said Isiah Wagoner. “This was a modern day Selma act that we’ve seen in the 60s happen in 2020 out in Thurston.”

“We saw a group of peaceful protesters try to walk through a residential neighborhood which is their first amendment right to do and get barricades, stomped, oppressed, yelled at, slammed, dragged, and beaten on.”

Wagoner detailed how some protesters present at the protest were attacked by counter protesters. A Wall of Mom’s protester was violently shoved to the ground by a counter protester. The Wall of Mom’s protester was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

“We would love for today to be a beautiful day to arrest the cops that harassed and beat our brothers and sisters,” Wagoner said. He also called for charges to be dropped for peaceful protesters who were arrested.

Before marching back to the Safeway parking lot, Wagoner encouraged people reach out to the ACLU and NAACP to file complaints related injustice. 

A number of counter-protesters were present at the start of the protest, some of them armed, but they remained mostly out of sight for the duration of the protest with some reappearing at the Safeway parking lot.

As seen at previous protests, a few motorists loudly revved their engines when in close proximity to marchers.  Springfield Police closed off nearby roads for marchers and the event stayed largely peaceful. The protest had begun dispersing around 9:15 p.m.


Copyright 2020, KLCC

Melorie Begay is a multimedia journalist for KLCC News. She was the Inaugural KLCC Public Radio Foundation Journalism Fellow. She has a bachelors in Multimedia Journalism from the University of New Mexico. She previously interned at KUNM public radio in Albuquerque, NM and served as a fellow for the online news publication New Mexico In Depth.
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