Top Ten #9: BLM and police issues
When police in Minneapolis choked George Floyd to death on May 25, followed by police in Atlanta shooting and killing Rayshard Brooks on June 12 because he was running from them, a wave of protests broke out nationwide.
The outcry rippled all the way to Sanpete County, where on May 30, about a dozen protestors held signs outside the Mt. Pleasant City Hall, and on June 10 in Ephraim, about 100 people participated in a peaceful march from the Fresh Market parking lot to Walmart.
In the fashion of NFL players who earlier had protested during the national anthem, the marchers stopped and “took a knee” at the Ephraim City Hall.
Meanwhile, the Messenger also covered a much smaller pro-police march in Ephraim featuring marchers in pro-Trump clothing. The paper also carried a story reporting that there had been no police shootings by local law enforcement in more than 20 years.
On July 16, under the headline “Do black lives matter in Sanpete?” the Messenger ran profiles of two local African-Americans talking about experiences ranging from intrusive curiosity about racial characteristics to blatant ostracism.
Dana Bagnall, former head of the scholarships office at Snow College, described being introduced to a coworker shortly after she was hired. The coworker refused to shake her hand.
Later, she and her husband, who is part Latino and part Caucasian, went to a meeting at their LDS ward and sat down in the chapel. It turned out the same coworker was sitting nearby with her family. The whole family got up and moved.
Dustin Allred, whose mother is Caucasian and father African-American, grew up in Spring City, where he said he had a wonderful childhood. He was the North Sanpete High School Sterling Scholar in trade and technical education.
He said that because Utah has a relatively small African-American population and because the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is so dominant, there is a “Utah Bubble Effect.”
“When you’re in the bubble, you’re not seeing or worried about things happening outside of the bubble, and you become comfortable in your own world,” he said.
He described other young people in Sanpete County, who had almost no contact with African-Americans, asking to feel his hair or touching his skin without permission out of curiosity.
The Messenger devoted two opinion pages to racial-justice issues. The June 18 opinion page included an op-ed by President Bradley Cook of Snow College who said the nation, and even Snow College, have “much work to do” to live up to the ideals of equality.
A column by Robert Stevens, Messenger managing editor, argued it was wrong to turn the Black-Lives-Matter protests into a liberal vs. conservative issue.
He wrote that there was no question that police brutality had been directed at African-Americans for decades. There was little evidence, he said, that the national Black Lives Matter organization spearheaded the violence that broke out in many cities. And he warned against false information about the protests being trafficked on social media in Utah.
On the Aug. 8 opinion page, columnists Steve Clark and Alison Anderson debated whether the Black Lives Matter organization and the nationwide protests had advanced equality or set it back.
During the year, the Messenger carried at least a half-dozen letters to the editor arising out of the Black Lives Matter protests, ranging from letters supporting local law enforcement and opposing any de-funding of police, to letters calling for racial tolerance. One letter about tolerance was signed by 10 people.
A letter from Barbara Barton of Manti struck a tone typical of many letters. “We are all God’s children,” she wrote. “If we loved our God or higher being with all our heart, mind and strength, and loved our neighbor as ourselves, we would not have all the horrible incidents going [on] around the world.”