Hundreds of thousands of protesters continue to take to the streets across America and throughout the world in the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis. Floyd died on May 25th after Police Officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on Floyd’s neck as he lay handcuffed on the ground. Since that day, protests have been held at which people speak out against societal shortfalls, including systemic racism and police brutality, and call for reform.
In Valley City, a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest is being organized by Alysha Oberlander, and set for Sunday, June 7th. The peaceful protest will begin in City Park, where participants will begin to walk a predetermined route around Valley City by heading north on 5th Ave NE.
Oberlander has faced criticism from local residents, but she remains outspoken that the Black Lives Matter message must be heard for positive change to happen and for true unity to be achieved.
“There is a lot of racism in Valley City—you guys may or may not see it,” she wrote on Facebook. “We aren’t asking for trouble…we are asking for our voices to be heard…this is not about dividing [whatsoever]…if it was I wouldn’t be inviting you all to come…this is about unity…we want unity!”
Oberlander reiterated that she is planning a peaceful protest, and does not condone any destructive actions by those who come in and interrupt peaceful protests to damage property or cause harm to people. She emphasized that the peaceful protesters will walk on the sidewalks (not blocking traffic or congregating on streets) unless she obtains a parade permit from the City Commission.
Valley City Police Chief Phil Hatcher says that the department and its officers have done some planning and preparation for the day, covering all possible scenarios.
“We’re prepared,” Valley City Police Chief Phil Hatcher says, “but not scared. I’m hoping that it’s calm and good dialogue can be shared.”
He said that he has visited and talked with downtown business owners and employees about the VCPD’s preparations for Sunday.
“And those who are talking about arming themselves to protect local businesses and properties—,” he adds, “that’s my job.”
He says that he thinks there are parts of the system that should change, and that he hopes this peaceful protest is a time and place for local people to talk civilly, sharing stories and ideas.
Chief Hatcher also said that he has been offered an opportunity to speak at the peaceful protest on Sunday.
“I plan to be there,” he says, “but I think this is maybe not the time for me to speak, but to listen.”
The peaceful protest begins on Sunday, June 7th, at 11 a.m. in City Park, followed by the walk around town.