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Several hundred people gathered in Bozeman on Sunday afternoon for a vigil and peaceful march honoring Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade and the hundreds of other Black, Indigenous and People of Color who have been killed by law enforcement in the United States.

Organized by Bozeman United for Racial Justice and the Black Student Union at Montana State University, the event drew an estimated 300 to 400 people to Bogert Park. A crowd of people listened to speakers, chanted and marched up and down Main Street. The event concluded with a vigil, songs led by event organizers and a moment of silence.

Vigil for Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, BLM

Hundreds of people march through downtown Bozeman to bring attention to Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and the many other Black, Indigenous and People of Color who have been killed by law enforcement in the United States.

“I have been a Black woman every minute of every day,” said Jay Brito, a local organizer who was also involved in the planning of last summer’s peaceful marches, to the crowd gathered under the gray skies. On a good day, Brito said being a Black woman means microaggressions — people saying or doing things that subtly discriminate against her and other Black Bozemanites.

“On bad days, this means waking up to another Black person dead,” Brito said. “Every day, we watch more people die and not get the justice they deserve … I’m tired of death and I’m tired of seeing no justice.”

Vigil for Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, BLM

Mourners attend a vigil in honor of Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and the many other Black, Indigenous and people of color who have been killed by law enforcement in the United States.

Organizers strung air fresheners around the Bogert Park amphitheater stage, each with the name of a person killed by law enforcement in the United States. The air fresheners were symbolic in another way — Daunte Wright, the 20-year-old Minnesota man who was shot and killed by police last week, was pulled over for having expired plates and an air freshener hanging from his rearview mirror.

Wright was at least the 262nd person shot and killed by law enforcement so far this year, as reported by the Washington Post. The Post’s database on police shootings shows that Black Americans are more than twice as likely to be fatally shot by law enforcement, despite making up less than 13% of the American population.

Vigil for Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, BLM

Hundreds of people march through downtown Bozeman to bring attention to Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and the many other Black, Indigenous and People of Color who have been killed by law enforcement in the United States.

Saying the names of the people who have been killed by law enforcement is important, Brito said.

“By saying their names, we are recognizing their humanity,” Brito said. “All of these names represent real people. People not just with names, but with dreams, lives, goals, families, loved ones, futures.”

Organizers handed out signs to attendees with slogans like “Mental Health, not Police,” “Housing, not Police,” and “Prevention, not Police,” a nod to what the phrase “Defund the Police” colloquially means — moving taxpayer money away from law enforcement and addressing the root causes of of crime, like addiction, untreated mental illnesses and homelessness.

Newly-appointed City Commissioner Chris Coburn also spoke at the event. The Bozeman City Commission is in charge of the city’s budget — which includes funding for, among other things, the Bozeman Police Department.

Vigil for Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, BLM

Hundreds of people march through downtown Bozeman to bring attention to Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and the many other Black, Indigenous and People of Color who have been killed by law enforcement in the United States.

“It is an honor and a privilege to use that platform to amplify our voices,” Coburn said of his seat on the city commission. “I’m with you in resolve to not let Black pain be met with silence …. I’m committed to elevating these crucial conversations.”

Similar to past events organized by BURJ, people trained in de-escalation, crowd marshals, people with medical training and people carrying supplies like water bottles wore brightly colored t-shirts or arm bands to signify that the crowd could ask them for help. Prior to the march, speakers repeatedly reminded participants that the march would not be a violent action and asked them not to speak to law enforcement, counter protestors or journalists.

No organized counter protest was apparent and there was no major law enforcement presence. Journalists were present at the event.

Vigil for Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, BLM

Hundreds of people march through downtown Bozeman to bring attention to Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, and the many other Black, Indigenous and People of Color who have been killed by law enforcement in the United States.

Other speakers — organizer T.W. Bradley and MSU’s Asian Student Interracial Association Vice President Stephanie Keene — said that the fight for Black liberation from violence perpetrated by law enforcement can’t be separated from the fight for Asian American, Pacific Islander and Indigenous rights.

“As Asian American Pacific Islanders, we can not put our head down,” Keene said. “We stand united with our Black brothers and sisters.”

Bradley’s speech focused in part on the futures of the people who have been slain by law enforcement — futures that those people won’t ever be able to live out.

“How many of us is it going to take for you to realize that we as Montanans are not immune?” Bradley said.

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Melissa Loveridge can be reached at mloveridge@dailychronicle.com or at (406) 582-2651.

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