Hundreds gather for Anchorage rally against police violence

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) As cities in the lower 48 struggle with civil unrest surrounding protests over the death of George Floyd, a series of protests in Anchorage ended peacefully Saturday.

One protest, which started at noon in Town Square, was organized by Markus Vinson, a local student at East High. Vinson said he expected only his friends and family to show up, but the turnout ended up being in the hundreds.

“A lot of my friends, and a lot of just youth in the community, have felt so much anger, and so much passion about what’s been going on in the lower 48,” he said.

The protests come following Floyd’s death, but both Vinson and Jasmin Smith, the organizer of the second protest in Midtown said the rallies were meant to stand in solidarity for those in the lower 48 currently suffering from police brutality, as well as to remember those who were killed before Floyd. Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Trayvon Martin were common names on signs and in chants.

On top of all that, the protestors said they were rallying to encourage change in Alaska, where they believe systemic racism is still present.

“Rates of violence among black people across the nation, and native people across the country are really high,” said Charlene Apok, Director of Gender, Justice, and Healing at Native Movement, a nonprofit supporting the midtown rally. “They’re the highest groups that face police brutality, and Alaska is no exception to that.”

Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz commented on Floyd’s killing and the upcoming protests at a press conference on Friday. He encouraged empathy for the protestors and said that such a killing would never happen in Anchorage.

“Our police are trained differently,” he said. “Our police are much more aware of the requirements of- even if one of their own, if one of our own does something wrong, other officers will stop that person.”

Anchorage Police Department Chief Justin Doll also commented on Floyd's death, saying it left every law enforcement professional he knows speechless.

"It is simply unfathomable conduct by a police officer," he wrote in a statement Friday.

As for the APD's response to the protests, they contacted organizers ahead of time and remained relatively unseen during the rallies.

“They communicated that we had their support,” Vinson said. “And that if anything goes South with people that try to go against our protest, we could call them.”

Both protests ended peacefully.

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