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Peaceful vigil at Idaho Capitol — and then late-night tension — follow days of protests

Thousands of Idahoans gathered at the Idaho Statehouse on Tuesday, June 2, 2020, to mourn the lives of black Americans lost to violence, often at the hands of police. | Ximena Bustillo, Idaho Statesman
BOISE (Idaho Stateman) — The vigil organizer had been reading name after name. Some familiar, others less so: Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin. Sandra Bland.
“And after this last name, I would like you to keep a moment of silence: George Floyd,” she said into the microphone on the steps of the Idaho Capitol Building on Tuesday night.
The crowd, made up of thousands of Idahoans, responded, fists in the air: “George Floyd!”
“Say it again: George Floyd!” the organizer urged.
His name came from the crowd three more times. Then, silence. George Floyd were the two words that rang out the loudest.
Floyd’s name has been ringing out across the country for the past week after his death sent shock waves reverberating through America.
Thousands gathered in Boise and elsewhere in Idaho on Tuesday to remember Floyd, the black man who died as cellphone footage rolled when a Minnesota police officer knelt on Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes, 46 seconds — killing him. The peaceful vigil on the steps of one of the country’s most conservative statehouses was held “to mourn the lives of black Americans lost at the hands of police and fellow citizens.”

Thousands of people gathered around the Idaho Statehouse steps Tuesday, June 2, 2020 for a vigil mourning the death of George Floyd and a long list of others who lost their lives because of racism. | Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman
Smaller events have been held in Sandpoint, Idaho Falls, Twin Falls, Hailey, Rexburg and in Ketchum. Boise joined cities across the country holding events Tuesday, with people opposing police brutality against people of color.
RELATED: Locals hold rally to protest the death of George Floyd
Tai Simpson and Whitney Mestelle, two of the organizers of Tuesday night’s event, went live on Facebook just hours before the event to ask attendees to be peaceful, not bring weapons, social distance and not bring open flames. Masks were strongly suggested and handed out by organizers. Attendees were asked that signs include only the names and photos of people killed by police.
“It’s important that we have an organized and peaceful event to bridge the community together,” Mestelle told the Idaho Statesman at the event. “Peaceful mourning is super valuable. It gives white people a chance to reflect on what we’ve been telling them, and it gives the people of color a chance to reflect together. … My hope is people leave the steps with the desire to move the needle of change in our community.”

Thousands of people gathered around the Idaho Statehouse steps Tuesday, June 2, 2020 for a vigil mourning the death of George Floyd and a long list of others who lost their lives because of racism. | Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman
Though the event was not planned by a specific organization, Boise’s black community and the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence helped support it.
Simpson was asked what inspired the vigil, and answered: “Grief, pain, anger, despair — all of those things in the face of loss of lives. And to watch it all on social media over and over again, year after year, we get angry enough.”
Tensions rise with ‘All Lives Matter’ chants after Boise vigil
About 15 minutes after the vigil ended and attendees dispersed without any incident, dozens of people in two groups gathered at the Capitol a second time, and this time the scene was more tense. It was not clear how many in the crowd were among those who had been at the vigil. Idaho State Police and the Boise Police Department created a human wall multiple times between groups whose members were shouting at each other.
One side chanted “George Floyd” and “black lives matter,” and the other countered with “all lives.”
Eventually, one group stayed near the Capitol, and the other left en masse toward downtown on Capitol Boulevard. A bunch of people returned from downtown to the Capitol, and then at about 1 a.m., a group started walking back toward the city’s center. The loops around downtown took place at least three times.
“This is Idaho. Things like this don’t usually happen here,” said Joey Alano, who stood on the outskirts of the crowd that had gathered after the vigil. “We’re here to be with them whether we have a different perspective or not. Blue lives still matter, and some cops are bad, but it takes time to sift through and people don’t realize that.”

Thousands of people gathered around the Idaho Statehouse steps Tuesday, June 2, 2020 for a vigil mourning the death of George Floyd and a long list of others who lost their lives because of racism. | Darin Oswald, Idaho Statesman
At around 2 a.m., the crowds on both sides began dispersing, with the majority leaving by 2:15. Police maintained a distant but active presence, intervening to pull people out of the crowd but not conducting any arrests.
On Tuesday afternoon before the vigil, Boise Mayor Lauren McLean and acting Police Chief Ron Winegar called for people attending vigils and protests in honor of George Floyd “to be peaceful and honor the life and legacy of those lives are lost.”
“We value those who identify as black, indigenous and/or people of color,” McLean said. “Each of you enriches our lives, enriches our community, and understanding your perspectives and experience is vital and important to our community. We stand with you, both here in Boise and around the country, and it’s incredibly important that we honor the life and legacy of those who have lost their lives to racism in our country.”
Source: eastidahonews.com

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