Protection or Intimidation: Two Views
Was extra security provided by the college and local law enforcement at the People’s Theater Inquest August 13 to protect those attending or to intimidate them?
Extra college armed security in uniforms, including four visible near the registration table at the entrance and one sometimes at the doorway listening to the speakers, and three City of Riverton police cars in the west parking lot were visible. The building, including the Food Court, was closed except for the one entrance. Others were in locations less visible to the public. This was set up after I had refused to move the event to the Wind River Casino when called the day before.
The college administration received calls from the mayor of Riverton and college trustees about threats by anti-Black Lives Matter activists who were planning to bring weapons and disrupt the event. At first, they heard these threats were in social media. After no threats could be found, they determined that actions were being planned by phone to avoid being detected through the social media.
Following the event, the administration expressed three surprises about the event:
- No protestors with or without weapons came.
- The dialogue was civil, which was attributed to it being well structured.
- That 46 people attended in person, more that they had expected.
Supporters of Justice for Andy viewed this as excessive show of law enforcement as an attempt to intimidate the participants. The Riverton police were specifically asked not to provide security because it would trigger PTSD and feel like intimidation for the family and friends of Andy Antelope should the Riverton police be present, since the event was about the killing of Andy Antelope in September 2019 by a Riverton police officer.
The presence of law enforcement and their vehicles did intimidate. Andy Antelope’s sister said, “It made my blood boil. I would not have come had I known that they were going to be there. I started to say something to one of them in the parking lot when I was waiting for my daughter to pick me up, but I feared if I did, I would be arrested.” Another relative who spoke during the discussion period noted his discomfort that a policeman was at the door listening to his remarks.
I am skeptical that the mayor was concerned about our safety when he called Central Wyoming College. Had he been, he would have called us; he has my phone number. Or he could have called those who were helping us develop our safety plan to alert them. Asking us to go to the Wind River Casino for the event would not have meant we would be any safer if that was his concern. The mayor from the beginning has opposed an inquest into this shooting and continues to do what he can to stifle further consideration of one.
Whether you believe the show of excessive presence of law enforcement was for protection or intimidation, we should be concerned. No one should try to stop us in our efforts for meaningful community dialogues.
Fear not. Be bold. Build relationships. Be humble. Do justice.
You can support the Riverton Peace Mission at the website www.rivertonpeacemission.org or mail checks to PO Box 255, Riverton, WY 82501.