Medical professionals and community leaders joined a rally outside Reno City Hall Friday morning.
Dr. Bayo Curry-Winchell is Director of Urgent Care for Saint Mary’s Health Network in Reno. She organized Friday’s event as part of White Coats for Black Lives, a national movement within the medical profession calling attention to the public health impacts of disproportionate police violence in the Black community and other communities of color.
The rally began with the crowd kneeling on the ground in silence for eight minutes and 46 seconds — the same amount of time former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on George Floyd’s neck, killing him.
“Imagine someone pressing their weight on your neck for that amount of time,” Dr. Curry-Winchell said tearfully.
She said the disproportionate police killings of unarmed Black people and the underrepresentation of people of color in the medical profession are connected.
“We need more African American doctors,” she said. “We need to have more physicians of color in communities across the board, so our community knows that you can achieve this.”
We need to have more physicians of color in communities across the board, so our community knows that you can achieve this.
Dr. Curry-Winchell also outlined the importance of culturally competent medical care for people of color. “If it’s coming from someone who looks like you, you are more likely to trust that knowledge. And that’s something that needs to happen.”
Reno City Councilman Oscar Delgado helped lead the event. He thanked the crowd after the long moments of silence, but encouraged attendees to do more. “What we just did today is the easiest part,” he said. “It’s gonna take time, it’s gonna be frustrating, it’s gonna be tedious. Do the hard work!”
Friday’s rally came nearly a week after a protest organized by local Black Lives Matter activists that was followed by property damage and the deployment of police and the National Guard.
According to activists and journalists who were on the scene, organizers led a peaceful march through downtown before asking the 1,000-member crowd to go home at 4:30pm.
But a smaller group split off from the event to continue marching — some of whom went on to vandalize a police station and break into City Hall, where they smashed windows and set a small fire.
Tobías Yareli De Jesús Arreola Álvarez attended both marches that evening as a Black Lives Matter supporter. He was dismayed that tensions between the crowd and law enforcement started to escalate after the first event ended.
“The violence really did start when someone took down the flag from the police department,” Arreola said. “You’re not making a statement of your desire for empowering people’s voices. Right now you’re making a statement about your desire for destruction, and I’m not for that.”
This is Reno contributor Don Dike-Anukam followed the two groups throughout the day. He was assaulted while filming on his cell phone when members of the second protest began breaking glass on the first floor of City Hall just after seven in the evening — an attack that was caught on video.
“Black Lives Matter, the Reno-Sparks chapter, wanted to put something together. [They] made an emphasis on a peaceful gathering,” he said.
But after their rally was over, Dike-Anukam says a mainly white crowd of around 200 people started to engage in vandalism, smashing windows and throwing objects at City Hall.
“I’m filming this live, on Facebook Live on my camera,” he said. “And that’s when my confrontation occurs.”
Dike-Anukam was confronted by a female protester wearing a mask, who took the first swing at him before another person hit him from behind. He says he was able to escape with help from some fellow journalists who were there, but the assault came as a shock.
“We don’t do this in Reno,” he said.
Reno police and firefighters arrived on scene shortly afterward. While crews put out the small fires inside the building, police used tear gas and rubber bullets to scatter the crowd and set up barricades.
Meanwhile, Mayor Hillary Schieve issued a mandatory curfew order, which was later extended to all of Washoe County after Governor Steve Sisolak deployed National Guard units. Reno’s curfew remained in effect until Wednesday, when the city rescinded the order after receiving pushback from the ACLU.
Speaking to the press on Wednesday, Reno’s Interim City Manager and former police chief Jason Soto said property damage and theft during protests is unprecedented in Reno.
Every Black Lives Matter event that we’ve had in Reno has been a peaceful event,” he said. “It was after the event was over, there were some individuals that certainly were not there for those reasons. And that is where we had interactions with those that were performing acts of lawlessness.”
Meanwhile, Black Lives Matter organizers have announced they’ll hold a peace vigil at City Plaza in downtown Reno on Sunday evening to mourn George Floyd’s death, as well as the police killings of Breonna Taylor and Miciah Lee, an 18 year old Black Sparks resident who was shot in January.
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