About 25 people stood on the corner of C and 7th in downtown Anchorage on Wednesday evening holding signs reading “Black lives matter” and “His name was Michael Brown.” They gathered to stand in solidarity with the people of Ferguson, Missouri. The white police officer who shot an unarmed black teenager in August was acquitted earlier this week. The ruling set off renewed protests and riots in Missouri and around the country.
Michael Patterson put out the call for the gathering on Facebook. He says the shooting of the teen, Michael Brown, impacts him personally and highlights racism against all people of color.
“I’m African-American and I live in a country where property is valued over my life and over my people,” he says. “And I think particularly in Alaska there’s a historical precedence of taking people’s land and then developing it and disenfranchising them from the democratic process.”
Patterson says the reaction of protestors and rioters around the country is understandable. Michael Brown’s shooting was a tipping point. He says the rioters are following a historical precedent.
“Everyone talks about the Boston Tea Party like it’s a great thing. It’s literally the same thing that’s happening” right now in response to the ruling in Ferguson, he says. “People are revolting against the system by destroying property because property is valued more than human life in this country.”
Community member Arenza Thigpen Jr. attended the event. He says the police and justice systems need to change or protests and riots will continue. He suggests starting Community Review Boards to examine police actions, even here in Alaska.
“Allow the community to be involved in a way that has not really been touched off yet. Because after all, police are protecting that community and those residents need to be involved in the process of determining if action was sufficient.”
Thigpen says he thinks race relations between African-Americans and the police are better in Anchorage than in other areas, but he still thinks there needs to be more cultural training within the force.
Many participants said they were at the event because they thought Alaska Natives were sometimes treated unfairly by law enforcement agents in Anchorage. They said all inequalities in the state needed to be addressed.