A peace vigil commemorating Black Americans killed by police in recent months drew hundreds of people to downtown Reno Sunday, despite unseasonably low temperatures, rain and hail.
For nearly four hours, community members, performers and organizers took turns on the microphone to share their perspectives on systemic racism. Many spoke about the weeks since a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd by kneeling on his neck as a new chapter in the movement for Black lives, calling for police reform and urging rally goers to vote in Tuesday’s Nevada primary election.
“It’s voting time, y’all!” Reno resident Anastasia Montgomery-Sykes told the crowd. “If they do not meet our agenda, it’s time to take them out. We’re gonna vote you out!”
The rally was organized by the local Black Lives Matter chapter, who explicitly designed it to be peaceful. In the event’s Facebook page, organizers wrote, “Rioters stay home, please!”
After a similar event led by Black Lives Matter organizers on Saturday, May 30, a separate group split off from the original march and broke into City Hall, setting a small fire and smashing windows.
Organizers also called attention to the shooting death of Miciah Lee, an 18-year-old Black Sparks resident with mental illness who was shot by police. Lee’s mother, Susan Clopp, spoke to the crowd early on.
“He was not a criminal, he was not a gang member,” she said. “He had mental health issues.”
Alex Daw is a student at the University of Nevada, Reno. He gave a reading of a recent poem he wrote about his experience as a young Black man watching the effects of disproportionate police violence on African Americans around the country.
“There are so many Black men and Black brothers and sisters that go unheard,” he said. “We should at least still be speaking about everyone, from the named to the nameless.”
According to other reporters on the scene, a small group of armed men in fatigues gathered on S. Virginia Street. Some supporters of the rally exchanged words with them, but the two groups largely remained separate.
In addition to the speeches, the rally also featured live music. Just before the event wrapped up at 7 p.m., organizers urged the crowd to leave peacefully and ignore outside instigators. As the crowd filed out of the plaza, a singer led protesters in the civil rights era hymn, “We Shall Overcome.”
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