Patagonia joined the long list of towns and cities that have been protesting racism and police brutality since the murder of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis at the hands of the police. Three local young women, Hannah Woodard, Cosette Whitcoe and Gianna Martinn, organized the protest. The three young White women wanted to show their solidarity with the protests around the country and world. “One race is treated differently and that is just not right,” said Woodard.
Around 80 people gathered at the Gazebo with most people wearing masks. Whitcoe spoke to the crowd of the deep safety she felt as a child growing up in Patagonia, acknowledging it as white privilege. As she enters adulthood, she feels her generation will shape the future. She believes that institutionalized racism in the US “hurts me deeply, that an entire race of people should be discriminated against because of the color of their skin.”
The crowd observed a moment of silence for black people who had been killed by police. Dr. Molly Anderson, a Democratic organizer trained in registering voters, called on everyone to vote to change the injustices, to vote by mail, and offered to register anyone on the spot. Methodist Pastor Tom Jelinek expressed hope for a better future than what his generation was leaving behind, and the hope that all faith traditions could help bring that about, bolstered by the American national and social traditions of caring for each other.
Martinn and Calvin Whitcoe both talked about the racial divide in their own community between Whites and Hispanics. Many of the protesters present were White even though there is a large Hispanic population in town, said Calvin. This is an issue that we must address in our community, “social circles should be more intertwined”, said Calvin, “and it is not enough anymore to not be racist, we must be anti-racist.”
The crowd sang Amazing Grace and most protestors drifted out to the sidewalk on the Naugle Ave side for a period of holding signs and waving to vehicles driving by, of which many responded. The slab in front of the gazebo had been chalked with a forearm and banner mural reading BLACK LIVES MATTER, and around it in large bright letters were the names of dozens of black people killed by police.
Exelee Budd, a young college graduate from Patagonia, attended the protest because “it is my duty as a White person to speak up and stand up for the minorities here.” Duke Norton, a local Patagonia student, shared that he did not know how bad things were until a friend showed him a video about police brutality against African Americans and that “black people are dying at a higher rate and that being targeted for your race is an issue.” By being at the protest in Patagonia he felt he was “expanding the radius” of the change that needs to happen everywhere in the country.
An African-American man, Fred Marshall, from Nogales, attended the protest because he is close friends with one of the organizers. It was his third visit to Patagonia, a town he “loves” but it is “easy to see that things are segregated here.” He said he has experienced “police brutality in Nogales,” and believes that until “it has happened to you, then you can withdraw from it.”