Oakland draws local attention to national problem
Around fifty peaceful protestors gathered at the gazebo in the Oakland park to draw attention to the problem of continued racism in the United States.
The suspected senseless murder of George Floyd by a Minnesota police officer as shown on video footage has rocked the nation. Protests originating with the Black Lives Matter movement have sprung up across the country. Unfortunately, some of those have turned into something entirely different than their original intent, due to a relatively small handful of not-so-peaceful protestors.
Oakland-Craig graduate Alexa Smith of Craig sought to provide a peaceful opportunity in Oakland to those who support raising awareness and calling for change concerning racism in the United States.
“Oakland is a peaceful town,” Smith said before the gathering. “I feel like we are a very safe community. I have never felt unsafe here, but we need to acknowledge that it does happen. I believe if you ask anyone, they will tell you they have been affected by racism.”
Smith said that she has been in contact with some from the Oakland area that would like to participate in the ongoing protests but feared going into Omaha to do so. “Oakland is a safe place. We will not, and Oakland will not, tolerate any of the negative behavior seen in other places. We want those who attend to feel safe.”
Starting later than expected, participants walked from the vehicles parked by the football field; the Oakland Police Department closed the road by the gazebo to help provide a safe environment. Smith shared a few words and a prayer after thanking everyone for attending. Those wishing to participate then stood with their hands behind their backs while chanting, “I can’t breathe. I can’t breathe,” repeatedly for six minutes. The exercise was to draw attention to the way in which Floyd died as the then Minneapolis officer knelt on his neck, ignoring his cries. Smith’s mom, Angie Bryan, then reminded everyone how excruciating the experience must have been for Floyd. Three minutes of silence followed.
Smith again thanked everyone for participating. “I really feel your love. Thank you for coming,” the teenager said.
She encouraged conversation about racism by asking for volunteers to share their story. A couple took her up on the opportunity and Smith shared her own story.
“My dad taught me to put my hands on the dash when I get pulled over,” Smith said. She then recalled a couple of stops in Omaha where she felt harassed. She went on to share how appreciative she is of the local police department. “I was pulled over in Oakland and when I put my hands on the dash the officer said, ‘You don’t have to do that here.’ It broke my heart.”
A thank you was given from someone in attendance to which a round of applause broke out likely directed to Smith and her courage to host the gathering.
“Please be sure to thank the police when you leave. They have been very helpful to me in getting this together,” Smith said as folks filed back to their vehicles.