Black Lives Matter protesters in Fargo 'turning our back on hate,' call for equality
FARGO — Black Lives Matter marchers literally turned their backs "on hate” Saturday, June 20, as they called on Fargo-Moorhead leaders and residents to fight against racism while supporting equality.
More than 300 protesters marched Saturday from the Jeff Johnson Soccer Complex just south of North Dakota State University to the Cass County Courthouse and back, a 3-mile walk that lasted more than two hours.
It was Fargo’s second march in as many days where participants advocated for an end to police brutality, as well as the right to be treated equally.
“The enemy is people who want to produce this idea that white supremacy is important, that white people’s lives matter over other people’s lives,” BLM organizer Frederick Edwards told protesters while standing outside the courthouse during the BLM March for Justice. “We matter! Black people matter!”
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Marches have been held across the U.S. in the name of George Floyd , a Black man who died in the custody of Minneapolis police. His death has sparked an international movement.
A May 30 protest in Fargo remained mostly peaceful until someone hit a protester with his car, resulting in criminal charges. That night, rioters threw items at police, jumped on squad cars and smashed windshields.
Officers ordered the crowds to disperse before deploying tear gas and arresting 18 rioters that now face charges in connection to looting, assault on officers and enticing a riot, among other things.
Saturday’s protest, as well as Friday’s Juneteenth march, remained peaceful. Police escorted marchers down streets as chants — “No justice, no peace” and music filled the air.
Passersby mostly shouted support as marchers walked by, with some joining the group.
“They want change,” Edwards told The Forum when asked about people joining the march as the crowd walked by. “They feel that change is important. I love it.”
A brief verbal confrontation broke out at the courthouse when a woman repeated profanities while an organizer spoke. The crowd booed as police separated the woman, an apparent counterprotester who at times yelled "all lives matter," from protesters.
“We’re turning our backs on hate,” one organizer said as the woman was escorted away by police. She eventually left the area on her own.
OneFargo leader Wess Philome called out Fargo leaders for how they have handled protests in the past, including an investigation into Deputy Chief Todd Osmundson when he went undercover during the May 30 protests without permission.
He later resigned, and protesters have called upon prosecutors to drop any charges against those who were arrested May 30.
Philome also criticized Mayor Tim Mahoney for signing an emergency order in response to the protest , closing City Hall on Friday, requiring march organizers to get a permit and implementing a now rescinded order to prohibit protesters from carrying weapons.
He also called out Police Chief David Todd for not banning chokeholds and U.S. Attorney Drew Wrigley for looking into federal charges against protesters.
BLM organizer Faith Shields-Dixon said she doesn’t hate everyone that wears a badge, adding not all officers are bad. But she said she is tired of the ones who use the badge to hide from accountability.
“You can’t just hate them because they wear their badge,” she said. “It is individual accountability.”
The officers who escorted protesters through Fargo showed they cared about the safety of marchers, Shields-Dixon said.
Protesters never said that all lives or cops’ lives didn’t matter, Edwards said.
“I want you all to know that mattering is the minimum, and people have a problem with the minimum,” Edwards said, adding he wants people to get up and say, “I value you. You deserve to be here.”