Organizers of a Sunday protest in downtown Billings said this week they are tired of racism in the Billings community and communities across the country.
The protest was created in direct response to the murder of George Floyd, who was killed by Minneapolis police when an officer held his knee to Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes.
Amber Palmer, organizer of the protest, said Thursday that she was sent a link via Facebook that displayed peaceful protests across the country. Palmer says she thought that Billings should have a peaceful protest to honor Floyd and enact change in local communities.
Palmer asked Taylor Arnold and Jessica Bulluck, also Billings residents, to help organize the protest with her. She also reached out to Billings police to coordinate their efforts and ensure law enforcement was aware of the event and could help keep it peaceful.
Each of these women said they have had their own experiences that caused them to want to speak out and assist the protest efforts.
Arnold, who is of mixed race, says her son was watching TV when he saw the looting of his favorite store, Target, and the protests on the news. Arnold says she then had to tell her son about an innocent black man who was killed in the street by police.
“We have family in Chicago that we hardly ever go see just because of how different it is from being here than to going there or anywhere else. It’s time that we stop looking at people for being different just because of their color,” says Arnold.
Bulluck says she organized the protest because she cannot stay silent anymore. She says she wants to help educate family, friends and people in the community on the dangerous effects of racism.
“I come from a Caucasian family. I haven’t experienced the same things that my husband (who is black) has experienced and his family. And, watching him experience those things and standing there and having people treat him differently. Knowing that that same thing can happen to my children, I just can’t stand silent anymore and I’m just not going to," says Bulluck.
Jessica Bulluck's husband and co-organizer, James Bulluck, says he has talked with multiple family members on the issue of racism and Floyd’s murder. He feels that the Billings community needs to be more vocal on the injustice that people of color face every day.
“It made me think, we are in a state where we just bury our heads in the sand on stuff like this because it’s not the reality of a lot of people here in Montana. They don’t think it really exists or they downplay the magnitude it can have on people," says Bulluck.
The organizers of the protest say they want this to be a peaceful protest free from hate speech and violence.
“The one thing we want is a peaceful protest. We don’t want to agitate anyone; we don’t want to start trouble. We are not there to promote any type of hate speech. All we are promoting is the fact that we want things to be better. You know not just here, not just in Billings, not just in Montana but everywhere," says Amber Palmer’s husband and co-organizer, Ken Palmer, who is black.
The protest is set to start at 1 p.m. Sunday outside the Yellowstone County Courthouse and will feature guest speakers, music and more.
Amber Palmer says she is thankful for people in the community who are in support of the protest and who will volunteer their time.
For more information visit the Justice for George Floyd Facebook page.