An estimated 1,000 people attend a June 5, 2020, vigil in Casper. (Dan Cepeda/Oil City News)

As protests sparked by George Floyd’s death continued across the country and world for a second week, people gathered in Wyoming communities big and small to express outrage at racial injustice, support Black Lives Matter and rally for a number of ancillary causes.

Jimmy Simmons (in the tan suit), vice president of the Pikes Peak Southern Leadership Conference, leads a march down David Street to the Hall of Justice on June 5, 2020, in Casper. (Dan Cepeda/Oil City News)

Protesters have gathered in the capital Cheyenne, amassed large crowds for vigils in places like Casper and posted up in pocket parks and avenues in smaller burgs like Pinedale, Lander and Cody.

Cody Boyce joins others on the Jackson Town Square to support the Black Lives Matter movement June 8, 2020. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)
Laramie resident Marissa Taylor shouts into a megaphone as she leads a chant on June 9, 2020. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)

Many have taken a knee or stood in silence for eight minutes to recognize the length of time a white police officer in Minneapolis knelt on the neck of Floyd, the African American whose subsequent death set off a wave of protests across America and prompted a nationwide debate about police reform.

Ellen Weddington, Ella Volynets, Cassidy Creel and Stephanie Marks of Jackson join more than 100 other people in Pinedale on June 4, 2020, to protest the killing of George Floyd. (Ryan Dorgan/Jackson Hole News&Guide)
Protesters gather on the steps of the Sheridan County Courthouse as part of a June 5, 2020, demonstration against police violence and racism. (Allayana Darrow /The Sheridan Press/Wyoming News Exchange)

Wyoming events have been largely peaceful, even as counter-protesters and armed civilians often observe from the margins. Though early protests in cities such as Minneapolis and Oakland led to riots, no Wyoming protests have reportedly escalated into violence or property destruction.

Marches in Laramie have drawn fluctuating opposition. In this June 6, 2020, photograph, a pickup truck with men carrying assault rifles passes through the march. One of the counter protesters told WyoFile the group is armed to show its support for constitutional rights and peaceful protest. March organizers say they believe the armed people were there to intimidate and antagonize the protesters. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)
A procession of marchers in support of Black Lives Matter circles Cody City Park on June 7, 2020. (Emily Reed)
Jimmy Simmons, vice president of the Pikes Peak Southern Leadership Conference, accepts water and shakes the hand of an armed civilian watching the Casper vigil June 5, 2020. (Dan Cepeda/Oil City News)

Many have been one-time rallies or vigils, but others — such as the nightly marches in Laramie — will continue until change unfolds, organizers say. Organizers there are working on a list of demands to local officials, they say. Protesters in Laramie and in Jackson have blocked intersections.

Rain or shine, protesters have marched up and down Grand Avenue in Laramie every night since June 2, 2020. Well over 100 marchers brave cold rain (that turned into snow later in the night) to march in this June 8, 2020, photograph. (Andrew Graham/WyoFile)
Sheridan resident Derrick Linzy speaks on the Sheridan County Courthouse steps about his experience growing up as a black kid in the South and the struggles he has faced in Wyoming as a black man. His words during a June 5, 2020, rally brought many participants to tears. (Matthew Gaston/The Sheridan Press)

Many protesters have worn face masks to help prevent the spread of the coronavirus, but some came with bare faces. Gatherings several times exceeded the statewide health limits set by Gov. Mark Gordon, who has ordered that crowds be limited to no more than 250. Roughly 500 people attended a rally in Sheridan, an estimated 700 came to a protest in Jackson and some 1,000 gathered for a vigil in Casper.

Close to 500 gathered in Sheridan to march for the Black Lives Matter Solidarity Peaceful Protest on Friday, June 5, 2020. Sheridan police were on hand to ensure safety. (Matthew Gaston/The Sheridan Press)
A Wyoming cultural landmark stands behind people protesting police brutality and racial violence in Jackson on June 8, 2020. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Gordon expressed support Wednesday for citizens to exercise their First Amendment rights and said he has not encouraged law enforcement to cite protesters for violating the state health orders. 

“I respect the right, and appreciate the intent of all those who have spoken out, even if it is against decisions I have made,” Gordon said in a Facebook post.

Kianthony Jackson, 7, sits on Jason Covington’s shoulders as his mother, Chamise Jackson, stands in front during speeches in front of the Hall of Justice at a vigil on Friday, June 6, 2020, in downtown Casper. (Dan Cepeda/Oil City News)
In Cody, a man waves a Donald Trump campaign flag as marchers walk by in a procession supporting Black Lives Matter on June 7, 2020. (Emily Reed)

However, he urged caution. 

“Large gatherings of people do involve significant health risks and this risk has been identified both locally and nationally,” Gordon said in the post. “I encourage those who choose to participate in peaceful protests to practice social distancing and wear face coverings as much as possible. It is my hope and desire that we do not see additional infections and cases of COVID-19 in Wyoming due to the recent protests.” 

Wyoming will carefully monitor the rate of infection over the next few weeks, he said.

Danny Walker and protesters confront one another as Walker tries to wheel through an intersection that demonstrators temporarily blocked in Jackson during a rally to support Black Lives Matter on June 8, 2020. (Angus M. Thuermer, Jr./WyoFile)

Some people brought signs that touched on other Wyoming issues, like Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and the death of Laramie resident Robbie Ramirez at the hands of Albany County Sheriff’s deputy Derek Colling. 

Some called for an end to mass incarceration and police brutality. Others showed their support for black lives, LGBTQ pride, veterans and trans people. 

— Angus M. Thuermer, Jr. and Andrew Graham contributed reporting to this story. 

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Katie Klingsporn reports on outdoor recreation, public lands, education and general news for WyoFile. She’s been a journalist and editor covering the American West for 20 years. Her freelance work has...

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  1. The protests won’t fix the issues facing African Americans. Sure, a few bones might get thrown their way to keep them preoccupied until they realize that poverty has no political power. And poverty is at the root of most of the problems in the African American community, be it born from racism or the structures in place to maintain a status quo.

    As Jon Stewart rightly pointed out in an interview with the New York Time Magazine, “The policing is an issue, but it’s the least of it. We use the police as surrogates to quarantine these racial and economic inequalities so that we don’t have to deal with them.”…..

    Our country’s economy was built on the idea exploiting and maintaining an impoverished class. The country still clings to that economic model. Wall Street celebrates low wages, the dismantling of unions, the loss of pensions, the lack of bankruptcy protections for individuals, the high price of health care, energy, housing, and transportation. Wyoming has used the low wages in its service sector as a selling point to the business community. African Americans are fighting a system that gets rich off of their suffering and wants to maintain that system.

    Nothing much will come from these protests in regards to changing the foundation of the perceived and realized injustices. Rebuilding cost money. What you’ll get is a new law on choke holds. That’s a freebie.

    1. George, you and Michael Krampner are absolutely right in my mind.

      In that vein, I shake my head at the idea that getting an unemployment check for $600 a week is ‘too much’
      ” The administration believes they provide a disincentive to find work or return to
      a job, according to Larry Kudlow, White House economic advisor.”

      You wrote, “Wyoming has used the low wages in its service sector as a selling point to the business community.” Exactly. Perhaps raising the minimum wage would be more of an incentive to work, (once there is a vaccine for this crazy pandemic) to alleviate the poverty that occurs when one is making less than $2400/mo.

      Though the protests may not fix the issues our country has, I am beyond proud of the response and I pray that there is more than lip service and a law against choke holds (though that is a start.) May all those people be sure they vote in local elections then hold the office holders accountable. If they continue to speak to power after the protests slow or stop, maybe there will finally be real changes.

  2. Thank thank you for the coverage of the the demostrations in tis critical time in our nations history.

    Peace Dave Racich

  3. Almost 60 years ago, at the March on Washington in 1963, MLK said among other things “We have no time for the tranquilizing elixir of gradualism.” Yet, here we still are.

  4. I see the two armed guys in the back of the pickup truck are from Sanders County, Montana (#35). Is that where the photo is from? It looks like it may be from Missoula. What no “home boys” to capture an image of there in Big Wonderful Whyo?

    1. Sharp eye Dave. The plates are, in fact, from Montana. The photo, however, is from a march in Laramie.