Gov. Mark Gordon said he has no plans to activate the state’s National Guard following a presidential briefing Monday morning on state and local responses to hundreds of nationwide protests. In the call, President Donald Trump urged governors to use military action to shut down protests and to outlaw the burning of the American flag.
“Given that the rallies in Wyoming have been peaceful, the Governor does not have any plans on acting on the recommendations made by the President on the call at this time,” Michael Pearlman, a spokesman for the governor, wrote in an email. “The Governor believes that the people of Wyoming have a respect for our nation, our flag and for private property. He notes that all the rallies that have occurred to date in our state have been peaceful.”
Later Monday, Trump said that if governors failed to deploy the National Guard in response to violent protests, he would deploy the United States military and “quickly solve the problem for them.”
The comments from the governor’s office come after a number of small and peaceful protests in Jackson and in Cheyenne in solidarity with communities across the state following the death of George Floyd, a black man who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer after allegedly attempting to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. The police officer, Derek Chauvin, was fired along with three other officers on scene. By the end of the week he was arrested and charged with two felonies.
Though peaceful in many locations, protests turned violent in a number of cities around the country over the weekend, leading to the activation of National Guard troops in at least 21 states — including Nebraska and Colorado — as of Monday morning.
The Star-Tribune has reached out to the Wyoming Military Department for comment on whether it has been approached by other states for assistance.
While demonstrations in Wyoming have lacked the intensity of similar protests, a number of organizations around the state have worked to continue conversations to improve policing in the Equality State.
On Monday, Albany County for Proper Policing — a Laramie organization formed in the wake of a fatal police shooting there in 2018 — posted on social media urging for the need of citizen oversight to prevent cops with recorded histories of abuse from returning to the streets.
At the state level, the ACLU of Wyoming — which helped organize a demonstration in Cheyenne over the weekend alongside groups like the NAACP and the Cheyenne advocacy organization Juntos — issued a statement Monday morning calling on the state to “create policies that can begin to break down the unchecked systemic racism that’s brought us to this point.”
“Invariably, people of color in Wyoming face systemic barriers to education, health care, employment and justice,” Antonio Serrano, the advocacy manager for the ACLU of Wyoming, wrote in a statement. “In order to move from a place of outrage to a place of healing, there must be a fundamental shift in our state’s priorities and it needs to start with law enforcement and elected officials acknowledging the lives lost and people hurt by police in Wyoming.
“Pretending our state does not have these problems is turning a blind eye to an entire community and their pain,” he added. “It is up to us as a community to stand together and do everything we can to fight against racism in any form and in any institution.”
In Casper, Police Chief Keith McPheeters released an open letter saying that his agency was “disgusted” by Floyd’s death. He wrote that his agency had reviewed and discussed video of Floyd’s death in an attempt to learn from the Minneapolis agency’s failures.
“We never want this to happen in our community and we are dedicated beyond measure to ensuring that it doesn’t,” McPheeters wrote.
The department announced later Monday that it was preparing for a protest Wednesday and that local businesses should consider closing during that time.
The Cheyenne Police Department on Monday asked press to attend a police-community liaison meeting scheduled for Wednesday. That meeting is part of an ongoing agency initiative and was not scheduled in direct response to Floyd’s death. The request for attendance, though, cited “everything going on in other cities.”
In the governor’s statement, Gordon thanked law enforcement for their “responsible, respectful actions” in observing the weekend’s demonstrations and expressed a commitment to allowing continued peaceful protests around the state.
“America has a strong tradition of public discourse in her affairs,” he wrote. “Nationwide we are seeing an outpouring of sentiment in response to a tragic incident in Minneapolis. Events like this often galvanize our nation. Injustice is injustice, and when identified needs to be rooted out.
“To the extent that these protests are peaceful, like we have seen in several Wyoming communities, they enhance the national conversation about a very difficult issue,” the governor added. “When these protests become violent, they represent criminal behavior, plain and simple. Nothing more.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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