A year after Floyd rallies, two Anchorage teens mark Chauvin verdict

Two girls sit on a utility box on a street corner holding signs that read "Stop Asian Hate" and "Black Lives Matter"
Sigrid Miller (left), 17, and Tatiana Watkins-Snow (right), 17 sit on a utility box on the corner of L St and W Ninth Ave at the park strip in Downtown Anchorage on Wednesday April 21, 2021. “I was overjoyed, to be honest. Because I really thought they were just gonna give him another slap on the wrist. I kind of did a little dance. I was such a good moment,” Miller said of the Chauvin guilty verdict. (Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media)

Last year, Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was filmed kneeling on Floyd’s neck until he died. The video sparked months of protest around the world, including Alaska. 

In Downtown Anchorage, an 11-block city park hosted protests and marches against police brutality and in response to the death of George Floyd.

The park strip was a common and natural gathering place for hundreds of people in the city: They usually gathered in front of the memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  

But on Wednesday, one day after a conviction officially reclassified Floyd’s death as murder, the park strip was quiet. Only two girls were there: Tatiana Watkins-Snow and Sigrid Miller. 

The girls, both 17-year-old juniors at West High School in Anchorage, sat on a utility box on the street corner, waving to passing cars. Watkins-Snow said it’s a good place to be — lots of people can see them. 

Their Wednesday sitting protest was spur of the moment in response to the Chauvin verdict, Watkins-Snow said. She has mixed emotions about it.  

“It’s really easy to sort of be like, ‘Oh, that’s something great that happened. That’s, you know, positive.'” Watkins-Snow said.

But Watkins-Snow also heard about the teenage boy shot and killed by police in Chicago, 13-year-old Adam Toledo, and learned of another teenage girl, 16-year-old Ma’Khia Bryant, who shot and killed by police in Columbus, Ohio, just hours after the guilty verdict in the Chauvin trial was announced. 

LISTEN: In Alaska, relief and renewed calls for reform after guilty verdict in George Floyd’s murder

The news of the latest shooting was a swift reminder, Watkins-Snow said. Even though one officer had just been convicted, police violence continues. 

Watkins-Snow and Miller are just a year older than Bryant.  

“Black children are dying, children are dying, people are dying. And it’s just, you know, the timing of it was just really like, wow, nothing has changed,” Watkins-Snow said.

A long shot of an empty park except for two girls sitting on a utility box on a street corner holding protest signs
Sigrid Miller (left), 17, and Tatiana Watkins-Snow (right), 17 sit on a utility box on the corner of L St and W Ninth Ave at the park strip in Downtown Anchorage on Wednesday April 21, 2021. This same parks was filled with hundreds of people almost a year ago at the height of the Floyd protests and rallies. A day after the Chauvin verdict, just Watkins-Snow and Miller were there. (Mayowa Aina/Alaska Public Media)

Wednesday’s protest wasn’t planned per se, but the girls said they’ve been holding their two-person protest, on the corner of L St and West Ninth Ave a few days per week since the larger protests took place last summer. 

Miller said the reactions they get are generally positive, although there are some people who yell at them from their cars. They usually can’t hear them, so it’s not too discouraging, Miller said.

“I think if we were doing this in any other part of Alaska, we would not be getting the reactions we get. I think we’re in a super liberal pocket of Alaska,” Miller said. “But I think it’s important to be out here, especially when Alaska is such a diverse place.” 

Even as community activism has died down in recent months, Watkins-Snow said it’s important to her to continue to protest, to let people know they haven’t forgotten.  

“I’m tired of seeing people do their activism over Instagram and just ending it there. It’s something that needs to keep going.”  

Watkins-Snow said she’s organizing a peaceful gathering on Friday at the park strip for those interested in sharing their thoughts and reactions. 

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