BROOKINGS – Members of the Brookings community will gather for the Justice for Black Lives demonstration at 6 p.m. Friday, June 5. 

Starting at the courthouse green on Sixth Avenue, the group will peacefully march on Fifth Avenue to Fifth Street, proceed south on Main Avenue to Fourth Street, west to Third Avenue, south to Third Street, and east on Third Street to return to the courthouse green. 

The route includes four stops, where speakers and artists will perform prepared works. The organizers and participants are Brookings residents, including local business owners, community leaders and law enforcement. 

The organizers are working with local leadership and law enforcement to ensure the safety of community members, local businesses, and participants alike. 

The Justice for Black Lives Demonstration in Brookings is a peaceful march to support Justice for Black Lives, calling for continual engagement with the BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) community to stop systemic police brutality in America. Demonstrators will observe the right and messaging of peaceful protest; they will stay on public sidewalks and will not impede traffic, according to a press release. 

“We are working toward attaining a parade permit to use the public streets. If we are able to attain one, we will disperse that information,” organizers said in a press release. 

Additional safety preparations are in place regarding the current COVID-19 pandemic: participants are strongly encouraged to wear face masks, use hand sanitizer, and maintain social distancing. 

The organizers have communicated with the Brookings Police Department, the Brookings Human Rights Commission, the Brookings Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Brookings, and the SDSU Black Student Alliance regarding this event. 

Any member of the Brookings community is welcome to join this peaceful assembly to show support for the Justice for Black Lives movement. 

Public parking is available next to the library, at the 24 hours parking lot at the Brookings Activity Center, in front of the Brookings Courthouse, and in front of the Brookings Government Center (after 6 p.m.). Interested community members should prepare for high temperatures (sunscreen, water canteen) and the previously mentioned COVID-19 measures. More information is available at https://tinyurl.com/jblbrookingssd.

Justice, equality

“I’ve been passionate about fighting for justice and equality, like, my whole life,” said Matt Mims.

Mims, who plays basketball for the South Dakota State University Jackrabbits, has a dual perspective on life as a person of color and what it’s like for law enforcement during these times. 

“A lot of people don’t know I have a dad in law enforcement,” he said.

Mims will not be in town for the demonstration today, but said he’s been taking part in events in his own community of Cedar Rapids, Iowa. 

Mims hopes the local demonstration will “bring awareness of the systemic injustices of people of color in America. … Just bring people together; have people – black, white, or whatever just know that they’re not fighting alone. We’re all together.” 

Mims has watched the events of the past week since George Floyd died while in police custody in Minneapolis.

“It just hurts,” he said. “It’s 2020 and I know that America says freedom and justice for all, but for people of color, it’s not happening for all of us, right now. It hurts; it really does hurt.”

He said both his father and brother have been racially profiled.

“A year or two ago, my brother was stopped by a police officer. They didn’t really give him a reason why. And he asked. And they said, ‘Get out; we’re gonna search your car.’ And he just asked, ‘Why are you searching my car?’ The cop literally just said, ‘You look suspicious,’” Mims said, adding nothing was found in the search.

One of Mims earliest memories is of his dad being pulled over. 

“The way he was talking to (Mims’ dad), you know, it just wasn’t right. I was like 5 when I watched that. That was like part of my first experience of what happens really to a lot of people in a lot of communities in America. It happens more than a lot of people think,” Mims said.

There was a great deal of irony in the situation.

“He’s a federal probation officer here in eastern Iowa,” Mims said.

“I know what people mean when they say like ‘Blue Lives Matter,’ too,” Mims said, and admits he knows fear when he thinks of his dad doing his job. “With their training, a lot of time, they are safe. There’s always that uncertainty when he goes out in the field. It’s part of the job.”

He sees the other side, as well.

“Right now, black lives just don’t always matter in America. I just wish people really understood the whole message,” Mims said.

He has a vision how that could be accomplished.

“I think right now, America just needs everybody to come together. Black lives need everyone’s support and I just think we need to support each other all together. I think that’s the biggest thing. Unify, you know,” Mims said.

Prejudice in Brookings

Mikey Daniel hopes the demonstration helps people see what racial inequality is like for people like him and moves the discussion into the future.

Daniel, a running back for South Dakota State University who was picked up by the Atlanta Falcons, moved to Brookings from Seattle, Washington, when he was 10.

He intended to take part in today’s demonstration and had been asked to speak, but was leaving town on Thursday, “so I will not be there, unfortunately,” he said. 

He’s already spoken out on the issue. 

“I’ve been pretty vocal, using my platform to kind of spread awareness,” Daniel said. 

He’s watched the situation surrounding the death of George Floyd while in police custody in Minneapolis and knows it’s part of a larger picture.

“What I need for people to understand is this is not gonna be changed in a day. It’s not gonna be changed from one protest or demonstration,” he said. 

“What I need to happen in this demonstration or protest is the fact that we need to generate awareness, educate some people on what’s real,” Daniel said.

“My hope is just that with (today) and the demonstration is just that it remains peaceful. I’ve been very vocal about that. I don’t agree with all the looting and the rioting and all that. There’s no need for it …” he said, mentioning the problems Sioux Falls had during its demonstrations. 

“I just pray that it remains peaceful and that we can keep the main thing the main thing. And that’s just focusing on racial inequality, getting justice for everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re white, black; poor, rich; everybody, women; it doesn’t matter – equality for everybody. And so that’s just what I hope we can keep the focus on (today) and as we continue throughout this process, because like I said, it’s not gonna change overnight,” he said.

Daniel’s had experiences of prejudice while living in Brookings.

“Just walking down the hallways in school, being called the n-word and, you know, some people I know have had the n-word drawn on their garage,” Daniel said.

“When we’re at football practice, people driving around with their trucks, waving the Confederate flag at us, knowing a good majority of us are African Americans. I’ve seen it all,” he said.

“People, often, living in South Dakota are so blind to what really goes on, just because it is such a small town feel, … so I just need for people to become educated and just grow and understand and have a passion and understanding for what we as African Americans go through daily,” Daniel said.

Although he’s faced prejudice, he doesn’t feel Brookings is a racist town.

“I definitely would not consider Brookings a racist town. There’s definitely racists here – that’s anywhere – but as a whole, the community has been really accepting and loving of me, as well as my African American teammates at SDSU. So definitely, it’s not a racist town, for the most part it’s honestly pretty good, but you know there’s always gonna be bad apples; that’s just the way it is,” Daniel said.

– From Justice for Black Lives Demonstration organizers and staff reports

A shared message regarding the Brookings demonstration

BROOKINGS – A shared message from the City of Brookings, Brookings Police Department, Brookings City Council, and the Brookings Human Rights Commission:

Current events within our country have been difficult to bear over the last week as we, as a country, witnessed via video the death of George Floyd. We are shaken to the core by the actions of Minneapolis Police Officers as a man struggled and pleaded for the ability to take his last breath. As law enforcement, we are to be held to a high standard in our community. We take an oath never to betray our badge, integrity, character, or public trust. We also pledge to hold ourselves and others accountable and uphold the constitution, community, and agency we serve.

At the City of Brookings and the Brookings Police Department, we take what happened in Minnesota personally. We are truly saddened by the death of George Floyd and the tragic circumstances surrounding it. This tragedy and others like it create sorrow, uncertainty, and mistrust within communities. The actions taken by the officers in Minneapolis go against the core values of the Brookings Police Department, where we aim to serve while exhibiting professionalism, fairness, and treating others with respect and dignity while providing excellent police services. Individuals should not live in fear of those who take an oath to protect them. 

Recent events have brought voices of protest across the country – voices speaking up and speaking out against bias and institutional racism. These conversations are the means by which our country needs to bring awareness and change to behaviors, ignorance, and thought processes which are not acceptable, and which need to be addressed.

This week police leadership met with organizers for the Justice for Black Lives Demonstration, Brookings, SD group, in order to form a partnership with the goal of supporting and conducting a peaceful demonstration. The Police Department will make accommodations, and strive to ensure that there is no confusion about the rights of individuals to express themselves and to assemble lawfully for that purpose.

We at the City of Brookings stand in solidarity with organizers in Brookings as we address and have transformative conversations regarding the large, complicated issue at hand. We step up to serve all citizens equally regardless of race, gender, affiliation, sexual orientation, or creed, and we’re proud to serve a community that stands up to and speaks out against bias, racism, and intolerance. We can always strive to be better.

As we as a community speak out, let’s convey a strong message – and let’s not let that expression be clouded or diluted. We ask that as a community, let’s hold ourselves to the standards we are advocating for, and be a positive model against that which we reject by assembling peacefully, respectfully, and with integrity. By coming together in protest and peaceful assembly to speak out, we exercise and uphold our constitutional right to rebuke actions of those who abuse their position and badge. We bring conversation and clarity from ignorance, and we lay the foundation for change.

– – –

The Brookings Human Rights Commission condemns the infringement of human rights of any person. Members of the Human Rights Commission will be in attendance at the march this Friday, and we are readily available to assist with any questions or concerns about the protection of your human rights. You can contact the Human Rights Commission via e-mail at humanrights@cityofbrookings.org, and you can find more information about our mission and programs on the City of Brookings website.The Human Rights Commission is committed to continuing the community’s focus on race relations through education, training, and community conversations. We look forward to standing alongside you on Friday and hearing from you in the future.   

– – –

Members of the Brookings community,

We stand ready to listen to and learn from voices in our community that for too long have been marginalized. We have the privilege of occupying seven seats on your Brookings City Council and from those seats we have the responsibility to promote the safety and security of our most vulnerable citizens. While we celebrate Brookings as the most inclusive and equitable city in South Dakota, we have to do more than talk the talk of racial equity. As community leaders, we have to walk the walk. We walk with the Justice for Black Lives Demonstration. 

In an effort to continue this dialogue, the City of Brookings intends to host community conversations in the near future. These conversations will focus on strengthening relationships, improving understanding, and identifying opportunities for improvement.

We appreciate the event’s organizers for engaging several stakeholder groups and for doing all you can to ensure a peaceful march focused on our shared mission of creating an even better, more equitable community. We also want to thank the Brookings Police Department for supporting and protecting this important event. 

Our only path forward is the one we walk together.

The Brookings City Council

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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