Protests continued Wednesday in Missoula as several dozen demonstrators occupied a downtown corner hoisting signs and chanting slogans for change.
Their message remained clear – it’s time for a new direction and justice for all.
“This keeps on happening, and it’s sad,” said Marc Duffy. “It makes me really mad this is 2020 and we still have to deal with this. It’s not going to stop until we get to the very top. We just need a law that will save us from this systemic racism.”
Duffy was joined by Lawrence Amijo who launched the protests in Missoula last week on behalf of the Black Lives Matter movement. While Missoula is a welcoming community, he said, it doesn’t live in a bubble and national events demand local attention.
He thinks about past injustices and the future of his children.
“I’m not mad, I’m just tired and I’m scared for my children,” he said. “They’re going to have to grow up and deal with this. My parents had to grow up and deal with this. My grandparents had to grow up and deal with this. My grandparents’ parents had to grow up and deal with this. It’s a cycle that needs to be broken. I don’t want my grandchildren to have this fear that’s out there.”
Both Amijo and Duffy, two of several African Americans who led Wednesday’s protest, believe change must start at the top. Both have been discouraged by the actions of President Donald Trump over the past week and fear that looters and vandals are distracting the nation’s attention from the call for justice and equality.
“The government needs to step up and show they care about us more than they have been,” said Amijo. “It’s sad when I go on Twitter for Blackout Tuesday and everyone is pinning black photos for Blackout Tuesday and Donald Trump is still tweeting. It’s discouraging for all of us.”
The quest for true racial justice brought others to the rally, including Adrienne LeCoure. She’s been calling legislators and writing letters, showing up at every protest and talking to friends and family.
“I feel so incredibly passionate about racial injustice, and this is a breaking point for our entire country,” she said. “There are so many of us who are fed up and we’re not going to accept these injustices any more.”
Like others at the protest, LeCoure expressed a desire to see leadership change at the top, from the White House down through Montana’s own state Legislature.
While roughly 20% of the voting members in the U.S. House and Senate are racial and ethnic minorities – the most ever – the two bodies remain disproportionately white when compared to the overall population.
Without equal representation, it’s hard to expect true equality.
“We need to erase the slate, adjust policy to fit our current needs and not our historical context,” said LeCoure. “The status quo no longer reflects who is in this country. I feel that it’s just black and white and it needs to change and there’s no question about whether or not we need to accommodate our population. It’s the premise America was founded on – that everyone has a place.”
Antwon Hensen led the morning crowd through a series of chants. He said change will require persistence and education.
“There are too many people not feeling this correctly,” said Hensen. “They don’t understand what we’re fighting for, and that makes me angry. I want to show people what exactly we’re fighting for, that all lives matter, and black lives matter, and all lives can’t matter until black lives matter.”