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Bozeman protesters willing to take risks to fight for equality

Posted at 10:28 AM, Jun 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-06-07 12:28:53-04

While the people gathered for Sunday’s protest for racial equality at Bogert Park, at least two themes played out.

The peaceful protest brought thousands of residents together at the park, and while one side is happy to see such large numbers turn out, another side is questioning protesting during a pandemic.

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“I could die jogging like with Ahmaud . I could die sleeping like with Breonna Taylor . I am already at risk of dying every single day just for being here, just for existing, just for being black. So, me going out to protest is no different from me living out my daily life,” explained Jessica with Montana State University's (MSU) Black Student Union.

Organizers with MSU's Black Student Union and members of the Montana Racial Equity Project (MTREP) are joining the rest of the country in demonstrations and protests against racism and violence towards the black community.

The timing of the demonstrations during a pandemic concerns some, but organizers say they’ve been left with no choice.

“People saying that we shouldn’t be doing this right now are really saying we want the status quo. We don’t want the status quo. This has got to change,” exclaimed Judith Heilman, the executive director and founder of MTREP.

But there are still risks involved.

“As Americans it’s important that people be able to speak out and be heard on issues as important as this. As health officer, it’s also my duty that people understand the risks involved in gathering in large crowds during a pandemic. Hundreds or thousands of people in close proximity are greater risks for catching COVID-19 or spreading it to others,” explained Matt Kelley, Gallatin County's health officer.

A risk some are willing to take.

“I wouldn’t regret it if I caught it cause like I said no difference really. I could die being at home, staying at home. If I have to die, I’d rather die fighting for something I believe in,” Jessica said.

Sunday’s demonstration was peaceful, which is what seems to be wanted from everyone.

“I understand the importance of the gathering and so, we just ask that all the persons that chose to attend try to do their best to do so safely and peacefully," said Chief Steve Crawford with the Bozeman Police Department.

The next demonstration for racial equality will be Friday at 4 starting at Bogert Park . Organizers say face masks are required,