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'It's about oppression': Area residents rally in support of Ferguson, Mo., protesters

Julie Voeller, from right, Jeffrey Eide, Mark Hesse, Mel Kurtz and Kyle Green attend a vigil for the the Aug. 9 shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo., Tuesday, Aug. 19, 2014, on the Veterans Memorial Bridge between Fargo, N.D., and Moorhead, Minn. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO – More than 50 people with signs lined the Veterans Memorial Bridge on Tuesday afternoon to show their support for protesters in Ferguson, Mo.

People of all ages stood in the warm sun carrying signs and said they showed up to draw attention to the police killing of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson that spurred unrest there and captured the national media spotlight.

Many drivers honked at the sight of the signs, some of which read “STOP THE VIOLENCE,” “JUSTICE SOLIDARITY WITH FERGUSON” and “BLACK LIVES MATTER.”

“Black lives do matter!” one passing driver shouted.

Many said they wanted to show support for the people of Ferguson, who have faced days and nights of protests and violent clashes with police since the Aug. 9 shooting of Michael Brown by an officer.

“This is all about Mr. Brown and it’s about oppression in general,” said Jeffrey Eide, of Fargo. Eide said communities need to stop ignoring racial issues and analyze their own “inherent racism.”

“We need to stop saying things like, ‘I don’t see color,’ ” Eide said.

Sherry Lee Short, of Fargo, was holding a sign in the hot sun when a car honked in approval. Short said she was appalled by polls indicating that many Americans, especially whites, don’t know about the Ferguson shooting.

“It’s really important for me to show support for Ferguson,” said Short, who teaches visual arts at Minnesota State University Moorhead. “It shows support for people of color in our community.”

Linda Spafford, of Dilworth, said the Ferguson case brought back memories of the death of Martin Anderson, a black Florida 14-year old who died after being beaten at a boot camp. Spafford lived in Florida at the time.

“I have an issue with police brutality,” she said. “I’m supportive of law enforcement when they follow their own rules,” she added.

Ralliers directed their outrage at police brutality in general, rather than local law enforcement.

“The police from here have been exceptional,” said Eide, who works with the Rape and Abuse Crisis Center in Fargo.

Jared Kellerman, of Fargo, said he was “really grateful for Fargo PD.”

Sgt. Gail Wischmann, an internal affairs officer for Cass County, said anytime there is a question of excessive use of force by police, her office will review it.

“Even if the officer ran after somebody and took them down to the ground, we’re going to make sure that it’s not excessive,” Wischmann said.

Out of 24 cases reviewed this year, she said none were found to show excessive use of force, though she could recall an incident last year.

“When you have an incident where excessive force has been used,” Wischmann said, “nobody takes that lightly, whether that’s law enforcement or the public.”

“The people protesting today, many of those are my friends,” she said. “It’s not because they hate law enforcement.”

One of those rallying on the bridge was Audrey Nocho, who held a sign that read, “Hands up means don’t shoot.”

Nocho said people can’t understand discrimination “until you experience what a black man experiences.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Adrian Glass-Moore at (701) 241-5599

Adrian Glass-Moore

Readers are encouraged to reach Adrian Glass-Moore at (701) 241-5599 or with comments, criticisms and tips. He joined The Forum as its night reporter in 2014.