Billings, Bozeman holding rallies in support of Michael Brown, Eric Garner
The phrases “We Can’t Breathe” or “I Can’t Breathe” and “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot” have swept across the country as of late, with thousands of protesters using them as rallying cries against the perceived atrocities in which they were first uttered.
These atrocities are in connection to the decisions not to press charges against either Daniel Pantaleo, the white police officer who put an illegal choke-hold on Eric Garner in New York that killed him, or Darren Wilson, the white officer who shot the unarmed Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri.
More closer to home, two cities in Montana, Bozeman and Billings, are holding rallies with those who seek to tell the world that, ‘No. We don’t agree with what’s happening in our justice system.’
The Bozeman march, titled “Racism: Not in Our Town; Not in Our State” is set for noon at the Gallatin County Courthouse. Supporters will march down Main St. to Rouse Ave. It’s organized by the Montana Organizing Project.
The Billings event, titled “#WeCantBreathe Silent Protest” starts at 2 p.m. at the Yellowstone County Courthouse and will see protesters bringing signs and laying down on the courthouse lawn in solidarity of what happened to Eric Garner.
The Montana Organizing Project is a statewide, member-driven, non-profit and non-partisan based organization (501c3). It consists of organizational and individual members.
Elizabeth Marum of the Montana Organizing Project, and one of the lead organizers of the Bozeman event, said they felt the need to create something for their town to let those who are dismayed at what happened have a way to express their feelings in a positive, non-violent manner.
“We want to plant our flag and say, ‘No this isn’t right. We know it’s not right and just because we live in Montana and don’t have these egregious misbehaviors happening here, we still don’t agree with it. Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere. My civil rights are your civil rights and your civil rights are my civil rights,” Marum said.
Marum added that racial inequality exists in Montana just as much as anywhere else, pointing to the larger ratio of minorities incarcerated in Montana vs. minorities who are living in the general population.
“We do think we’re exempt because we only have, according to the Census, a 2 percent Latino representation and a 7 percent Native American representation, although I think it’s higher because Natives are routinely under-counted. But, say it is correct, we have 15 percent of our population that is people of color, but when you look to the jails, and again, if you go by the Department of Corrections numbers, it says that 25 percent of the inmates are people of color, and that’s still nearly double, so the numbers in our correctional institutions don’t follow the ratio of the general population,” she said. “Although people in the jails say that it’s probably closer to 60 percent, honestly.”
Marum said she’s expecting at least 50 people or so, although she said it’s difficult for her to gauge as she’s been out of town the past few days. She said no matter how many people show up, however, she knows that it’ll be a great time for people to take action.
“Frankly, I’m shocked at how many people are responding,” she said. “I think that what it says to me is that there’s not just an appetite, there’s a … huge need for people to speak out against the criminal injustice system as we see it in some our of communities, which also includes the killing of that completely unarmed young man in Billings who was reaching for his ID by a police officer.
“We don’t agree that this is the community we want and we think that there’s room for improvement in a really deep way because if you don’t speak out then you’re in half agreement with what you see going on. And, we’re not, we’re not in agreement with them at all.”