An estimated 6000 people gathered for a sunset vigil in front of the Idaho Capitol building on Tuesday to mourn the death of George Floyd and many other recent victims of racial injustice across the country.
George Floyd, a 46-year-old black father of two, was killed while in the custody of Minneapolis police on May 25. Floyd was pinned to the ground with Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee on his neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds.
In response to Floyd’s death, riots, rallies and protests have erupted across all 50 of the United States, as well as several other countries around the world.
Various groups of unorganized protestors took to the capitol steps and streets around Boise over the weekend and leading up to the organized event.
“The event is a vigil, so it’s not a protest and it’s not a riot,” said event organizer Whitney Mestelle. “I want it to be a time of mourning and reflection of the lives of black American citizens that have been lost by the hands of either other systems or police.”
At 8:30 p.m. on June 6, mourners amassed the Idaho Capitol Building steps and the entire surrounding block, as far back as Bannock street. Most attendees wore masks in light of COVID-19 and wore all black to represent solidarity. Organizers requested that signage only display the names of those lost and to bring electric candles, per the city’s request to not have open flames.
The event was not planned by any specific organization, but was supported by Black Lives Matter Boise and Idaho Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence.
The vigil opened with organizers stating their peaceful intentions and addressed any attendees looking to protest or riot saying, “this is not the space for you.”
An excerpt from the book The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas was read aloud, followed by a list of names of victims killed from racial injustices and police brutality across the country. The massive group of mourners echoed each name as it was spoken by the speakers; Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and many more included.
As the sun was finally setting, one last name was spoken: George Floyd.
A moment of silence passed.
“Say it again,” one of the speakers said, in which the attendees responded by shouting George Floyd’s name multiple times.
The vigil ended with an acapella rendition of “Rise Up” by Andra Day, with some people in the crowd joining in and holding their candles up in the air.
As the event came to an end, organizers requested that everyone disperse calmly and peacefully. They asked people to clear the area saying, “I know it’s tempting to stay and socialize but please go home.”
For the most part, this was successful.
Groups of people riding around in pick-up trucks while toting rifles along with Trump and Confederate flags blasted songs such as “God Bless America” as they drove around the surrounding blocks. Many held signs reading “Blue Lives Matter” and “Keep America Great Again.” Some of these people engaged and provoked vigil attendees by shouting at them as people were dispersing back to their homes and vehicles.
In one instance, a young man was seen standing atop a truck pointing his assault weapon at another car.
A large group of these people were seen gathering in the parking lot behind the Neurolux, but were broken up by police shortly after.
Approximately an hour or so after the vigil, tensions rose as groups of protestors from both sides were engaged in chanting back and forth at the Capitol steps. Police intervened, separating the two groups by forming a human wall between them. However, no force was used on civilians.