COOS BAY, Ore. — Almost 400 Black Lives Matter demonstrators took to the streets in downtown Coos Bay on both Saturday and Sunday.
The emotional stand in support of the BLM movement was mostly met with support from passing drivers traveling down U.S. Highway 101, though was interrupted by one driver who “rolled coal,” and one arrest when a man allegedly pulled a gun on protesters.
The gun was allegedly drawn on Saturday at 1:40 p.m. after a truck stopped at the light between Sumins Restaurant and Coney Station. One of the protesters who saw the incident, Zane Galvin, said the male initially pulled up and flipped them off.
“We said ‘Black Lives Matter’ and he straight up pulled his gun on us,” Galvin recounted.
Robert Fisher was another protester in the group when this happened and said the man looked right at him and said, “White lives matter.”
“I’m an unarmed black male here in Coos County,” Fisher said, shaken. “I’m already a minority and don’t understand why, when we’re peacefully protesting, that these people do these things to us. True color shows in this community.”
Kyle McMichael, a local photographer unaffiliated with any group, was on the corner and took a photo of the incident.
“I had the camera, taking shots of various signs, and saw a truck pull up,” McMichael said. “I noticed the protesters yelling back and forth and he gestured like he had a firearm and the group backed away, afraid. Then he drove off … as soon as the light turned green.”
Also in the group, Morgan Bream, said she ran away from the road when she saw the gun.
“I think it’s disgusting,” she said. “I grew up in this town. It’s honestly terrifying. … We’re peacefully protesting and (he) waved the gun like he was going to shoot us. … I started bawling my eyes out. I wanted to leave but this is why we’re here. ‘No Justice, No peace’.”
The man who allegedly pointed a handgun at protesters was arrested the same day.
Brandon Moore, 36, of Coos Bay was identified by Coos Bay Police with the help of several citizens. According to a press release from the Coos Bay Police Department, Moore was arrested for menacing and disorderly conduct in the second degree. He was transported to the Coos County Jail.
Black Lives Matter
On Sunday, some protesters unfurled a sign that needed many hands to carry, listing the names of murdered people of color. On that list was the name of George Floyd, whose death while in police custody in Minneapolis ignited the BLM demonstrations across the nation.
“I wish we didn’t have to do this, but I’m glad people are,” said Benjamin Ramirez as he sat on the curb in front of the Egyptian Theater during Saturday’s protest. “… I didn’t know what to expect (of the demonstration), but this is a great turnout, especially from Coos Bay. I see mixed (reactions) from the drivers, which is cool. … We need to say his name — say all their names….”
The crowds of protesters on Saturday lifted their voices in chants, saying George Floyd’s name, as well as Breonna Taylor who was killed by police in her own home in Kentucky. Some of the chants also included “No justice, no peace” and “Black Lives Matter.” Many protesters were moved to tears that day, touched by how many showed up in support and how well the protest was going overall.
Others were angry, like Betsy Rodenbush, who said she had been demonstrating for equality in the streets many times.
“…I’m here because Black Lives Matter and it’s my responsibility to say it,” Rodenbush said as she stood in the Prefontaine Memorial plaza. “…I’m 70. I’m tired of this… I’m sad and angry and broken-hearted. I’m hoping we can move one step forward if we keep coming to the streets.”
For Dominique Hernandez, she was happy to see the crowd of almost 400 protesters.
“Especially when you’re a smaller town and there’s not a lot of representation of people of color, it’s nice to see people show up and show they do care,” she said.
Dyana Lazcana-Brown was also happy to see the Saturday protest continue to grow in number.
“Being a person of color, especially in this town, the world has been very triggering for me,” she said. “Today is monumental, to be here with my loved ones and family and friends….”
One protester stood still and quiet in the crowd. The man, Jim Linwood, said the BLM movement is an opportunity for “white people to face some of the atrocities of the past.”
“…Slavery, the treatment of Native Americans, Japanese, Asians, Palestinians. It seems a lot of things are being done in white people’s name and we need to address these things,” he said. “…It’s not against white people per say, but a system that’s been developed.”
As the Saturday protest pushed on, a few blocks away the Coos Bay School District held its high school graduation. However, not every graduating senior showed up — some instead stood with the protesters.
“I’m hoping today will bring awareness to the issue,” said Cameron Langley, one such senior. “There’s a lot that needs to be done besides holding signs and chanting, but it’s a start to fix the problem. We’re standing up for George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. They are being remembered.”
Langley said he wanted to attend his graduation, but that “the ceremony is not as important as standing in solidarity here.”
For Angelina McGinty, she saw the crowd as a demonstration that “no matter how small a community is, moral rights outweigh what the status quo would be. We care about the people, not just the ones who live in our community, but everyone else who is victimized around the world.”
The crowd of almost 400 demonstrators marched on Sunday, a quiet and solemn group compared to Saturday’s protest. The march wrapped around downtown Coos Bay, starting at the boardwalk, moving along Highway 101, and then around city hall and back. Near 3 p.m., the crowd laid down on the boardwalk to honor George Floyd, who was held down by a police officer by the neck until he died.
“Overall, it’s healing,” said Carrie Brown as she marched on Sunday. “There’s a lot of hurt in people’s silence and negativity, so this has been really healing for me. When you’re targeted for the color of your skin and it’s so personal, it’s a lot of trauma and you don’t realize I think.”
David Hyink, who helped organize Sunday’s event, said it has been empowering to see the unity.
“After what happened in Coquille, there was a lot of anxiety,” Hyink said, referring to the false rumors that busloads of Antifa members would arrive to riot at the courthouse. Almost 200 armed individuals gathered last week to “stop the riots,” even though Antifa is not a single group but rather stands for anti-fascism. “…In a community that is obviously mostly white, it’s nice to see everyone standing in solidarity even here (where) there has been so much racial injustice in its history….”