News Update: Downtown Kingman, AZ: Community coming together and protecting the right of peaceful protest to bring awareness, fairness and justice for George Floyd.

By: Zachary Lopez (ZachNews):

Downtown Kingman, Arizona: The death of George Floyd well in custody of the Minneapolis Police Department has brought a nation into mourning and sparked outrage at those officers who took his life by refusing to let him breathe, dying as other officers near by ignore the cries for help, the moment all captured on camera.

Following the shocking death of George Floyd, protests erupted in cities across the nation, including in Minneapolis, Minnesota; Los Angeles, California; Washington, District of Columbia; Chicago, Illinois; Oakland, California; Las Vegas, Nevada; Phoenix, Arizona; Seattle, Washington and Miami, Florida just to name a few.

Well most of those protests were peaceful, some decided to use the opportunity of peaceful protesting and mourning the loss of George Floyd to cause destruction and violence, sparking fears in communities across the nation of other planned protests and worrying that their community could be looted or burned to the ground.

Last week, protests was announced over social media to be held at Locomotive Park in Downtown Kingman, Arizona, with a full day protest on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2020 as well as two more protests from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. PT on Friday, June 5th, 2020 and Saturday, June 6th, 2020.

As news spread across the community of over 30,000 people and all around the Colorado River Tri-Stste area, people begin to raise concerns about the protests, fearing that their community was going to experience the violence, looting and fires other large cities had, well some on social media posted threats of harm at those organizing the protests.

With a community concern and worried, uncertain what to expect from the upcoming protests, ZachNews Photojournalist Zachary Lopez set off to Downtown Kingman, Arizona to report on the protest.

Throughout the day of the protest, a scene of unity, people of all different backgrounds, race and beliefs, standing united together for George Floyd well friendly welcoming law enforcement and those protecting the First Amendment with the Second Amendment; what was witness was a scene of responsible peaceful protesting, not out of control as some feared.

Officers from the Kingman Police Department and the Bullhead City Police Department helping to assist local officers, as well as deputies from Mohave County Sheriff’s all were presented during the protest, greeted with friendly handshake, hugs and even jokes about the heat, here to protest the protester’s First Amendment right and to show that they are live them and everybody across the nation, upset and disgusted at what happen to George Floyd.

ZachNews Photojournalist Zachary Lopez spoke with Chief Rusty Cooper with the Kingman Police Department and Mohave County Sheriff Doug Schuster about what they’ve witnessed at the protest, if there have been any problems with protesters and their reaction to the death of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Department officers.

Both Cooper and Schuster condemned the actions by Minneapolis Police Department officers towards George Floyd, and wanting to make it clear to the community that they are disgusted at the acts done onto George Floyd, and that type of acts in their own departments would not be tolerated, and both Cooper and Schuster also said they are here in support and to protect their First Amendment right well making sure that those who want to hijack or destruct the peaceful protest be kept away.

ZachNews spoke to Chief Rusty Cooper with the Kingman Police Department about the protest, his reaction to George Floyd’s death and what the local police department is doing to prevent such acts by law enforcement well also working towards building a good relationship with the community their officers serve.

ZachNews asked Chief Rusty Cooper what you’re seeing out here any experience between protesters and officers?

“Well currently Zachary, everything is going really really well; which is what we’re hoping for. It’s what we wanted and I know the organizers of the event or protest I should say, that was there hopes and desires as well. So everything is going peacefully; is going well, everyone is getting along. I’m not aware of any incidents that have gone on, just a lot of people communicating and sharing each other and respecting each other. We do have a pretty good police present here; it’s not meant to be intimidating, we’ve been communicating with the organizers and we’re making ourselves in among the group. We want people to be comfortable knowing that were here; we’re here to protect them; we’re not here to mess up. It’s those who want to maybe come in – I say hijack the event – that’s happening in other areas of the country, and change it and that’s what we’re here for, is to prevent that and if something was to go on we will be removing people. But right now, everything is going very very well, we’re pleased. This so far I think is an amazing opportunity for the community to come together,” said Chief Rusty Cooper.

ZachNews asked Chief Rusty Cooper for those who were worried about trouble happening at the protest, what are you seeing? and from what we’re hearing from deputies, there here protesting everybody’s First Amendment right today, what your response to that?

“We do we support everyone’s First Amendment right, we also support everyone’s Second Amendment right. We’re here just because there was a lot of information – bad information – instigators on Facebook and social media that were trying to make this something else, and people made some threats, and where where those things as well so we’re here to to watch out for that. We’re also here, again if they would come in here and start to cause a ruckus, we want to know who they are. I mean everyone has a right to be at the park, this isn’t a private event. And actually my – I think I’m a referring this to amoung my staff – it’s really not a protest, is more of an awareness gathering – that’s my thought, that’s how I choose how to look at it because everyone it’s really bringing this issue up – locally, and it’s a good opportunity and it’s being done really really well,” said Chief Rusty Cooper.

ZachNews asked Chief Rusty Cooper if there was a counter-protest going on?

“I don’t know, I know there’s different people gathering in different places, and I know there has been some concerns in the community that if something bad would have happened that with people who come in and hijack this event, they would want to damage businesses because of the concern what’s happening in other communities. We haven’t seen that again so. A lot of people – I don’t know is I would call them counter – but there’s looking out for property. And there’s also a group here now – (referring to the two militia groups in attendance), and they’re here, their intent is to make sure that this group is not taking advantage of just by their present, and I appreciate that too,” said Chief Rusty Cooper.

ZachNews asked Chief Rusty Cooper with so much going on in law enforcement currently across the nation followingthe death of George Floyd by Minneapolis Police Department officers, what would you like to say out there in the community about all that has been going on?

“I appreciate that opportunity Zachary, because it is important. All of us – specifically I can speak on behalf of the Kingman Police Department, but I feel comfortable to the included the Sheriff’s office – Bullhead City is here to help us today as well, we have the Arizona Department transportation providers us with field people here as well as different agency. All of us are disgusted by what had happened with the George Floyd incident. None of us are proud of that, all of us are embarrassed by that. I am personally embarrassed, but the part that is most embarrassing is I know there’s a lot of people out there who judges by one brushstroke right, that we’re all that way, and I want to encourage everybody that I could speak locally that we are not; we don’t train that way, we don’t encourage that way. We are expected to hold each other accountable and to intervene if something is getting out of hand, and we are all disgusted just like everybody else is. So to me that’s kind of appropriate, we’re here we have a very good relationship with are community, we want to continue to maintain that. Again we’re full of officers that are human, we do it right a lot. There are times we don’t always get it right and we don’t deny that, but we do – our goal is to always get it right. It’s not about perfection, it’s about excellence and being the best that we can. And I don’t mean to sound like a sound bite or some cliche, I mean it and we mean it so we’re happy to be part of this. We didn’t know how if we were going to be received well so we didn’t want to force our way in here, but it’s been very welcoming, and I have courage my officers and I could see there’ll making their way around here and there sharing handshakes, some giving hugs, sharing water and snacks, and again I think it’s a great opportunity,” said Chief Rusty Cooper.

ZachNews asked Chief Rusty Cooper that interaction between people and law enforcement, locally, what services and what your department is doing to continue that interaction between the community and law enforcement so that complaints and concerns are getting addressed?

“Most people want to be be heard. You mentioned earlier – dialogue. Initially the dialogue with these groups that maybe on the surface look to be opposing, but when they communicate the dialogue happens and so we make every effort to in the police department we try to have dialog we make ourselves available through different sources they can contact us. We go out into the community as often as we can and make ourselves available. We do a thing we call “Coffee with a Cop,” we’ve been doing it for 15 years and we make ourselves available. People come and yell at us, you know compliment us or they can complaint right, or have questions on why certain things aren’t getting taken care of, and we make the commitment to be very responsive. Our City Manager Ron Foggin has made it point in the last two years to focus an extra effort of training on customer service, that includes police officers right because we serve everybody; everybody is our customers right. It’s not about doing everything they want, but it’s about treating them with respect, treating them fairly, and that’s how I feel this event is working for us as well. So we do welcome information; we may not always be able to provide with the answers they want, but we’ll give them the answer that we believe is right and best suited, and I do have a lot of professional – everybody working under me, working for me – are professionals, they’re courteous,” said Chief Rusty Cooper.

You can reach out to the Kingman Police Department at either: https://www.cityofkingman.gov/government/departments/police-department or via social media at: https://www.facebook.com/CityofKingmanPolice/

ZachNews later spoke to Sheriff Doug Schuster with the Mohave County Sheriff’s Office about the protest, his reaction to George Floyd’s death and what the local police department is doing to prevent such acts by law enforcement well also working towards building a good relationship with the community their officers serve.

ZachNews asked Sheriff Doug Schuster what’s his experience has been like regarding the protest?

“Well we were made aware of of this protest earlier in the week. We understand is happening today… and the following day, and we support that, I mean of course we support everyone’s constitutional rights to peaceful assemble, and that’s what we’re seeing here. We probably have around a hundred folks here right now that are doing a demonstration and they’re just doing a great job; they’re just trying to get their message out there, but they’re doing in a peaceful matter. The organizers have been very cleared – heard them over the PA – saying you know we’re not here to cause trouble, we’re just here to share our feelings and I think that’s great, and that’s why were among them. We want to make sure that they understand that we’re here to support them. You know our concern is public safety so if everyone is acting accordingly and remain safe, we’re going to be out here all day standing with them, and trying to stay cool because it’s a little bit humid today; we’re all drinking a lot of water, but nevertheless – the point being – they continue what they’re doing now, there’s going to be no issues. You know I don’t expect any issues; these are good people trying to get the word out, and in reality this is humankind issue; this isn’t a party issue – nothing like that – people are outrage as to what happen; I’m outraged as to what happened. I just want to make sure that we don’t go from a point of trying to get our message out there, to violence, destruction and potential injury or death; there’s no need for that to share a message, and if anything it does the opposite. So a great day today, we hope more people show up and like I said we’ll be out here all day,” said Sheriff Doug Schuster.

ZachNews asked Sheriff Doug Schuster what’s the sheriff’s department to build a relationship between the people in law enforcement and how are you handling the situation we’re all facing across our country, and your reaction towards the death of George Floyd?

“An excellent question, we have been working on our relationship with the public for many years; we’re very active in our community. Again I want to go back to the fact that – like everyone I’m sure – I was appalled by what happened. This is my 30th year in law enforcement, and the men and women would that I work with throughout the years, I don’t believe would ever do something do unconscionable. So I can say this – and I said it before – in every profession you’re going to have your bad eggs, in law enforcement there’s no exception to that. The issue is we try really hard to weed them out through the hiring process but sometimes people get through, doesn’t mean that we condone their actions. So when we… I saw what happened in Minneapolis and I watched that video, it turned my stomach; I was disgusted as were 99.9 percent of the other law enforcement for across America. It’s not an easy job to do; I don’t ever want to see it get to where the police versus the average citizen because then we’re gonna be ineffective and that’s not going to work,” said Sheriff Doug Schuster.

ZachNews asked Sheriff Doug Schuster is there anything else you would like to say to the community, and anything else regarding the peaceful here as well as everybody working?

“Absolutely, I’ve always been really proud of Mohave County. Mohave County tends to regulate itself. We got a lot of a people with great common sense, and their tolerance of one another, and that’s the key; we have to be tolerant. We don’t all share the same views but that is no excuse to make it a combative situation; we can agree to disagree and that’s okay. So keep doing what you’re doing Mohave County, I’m proud of the way you’re handling this, we’ll get through this just fine and know that we support our people,” said Sheriff Doug Schuster.

As the peaceful protest continued on moments of those holding sign saying “Black Lives Matter,” “All Lives Matter” and “Justice for George Floyd”, the crowd took a knee in an hourly moment of silence for 8 minutes, 46 seconds – the length of time a Minneapolis Police Department officer held his knee to George Floyd’s neck, ending the life by refusing him to breathe.

An ariel view from the protest courtesy of the Mohave County Radler in Kingman, Arizona shows the peaceful protest at Locomotive Park in Downtown Kingman, Arizona.

Organizers Naysha Rayn Powell and Shai Weaver thank the crowd for attending the protest and continuing to remain peaceful despite some who drove by flipping off the crowd and saying hatred things towards those remaining peaceful and exercising their First Amendment rights.

Well those who disagree with the protest drove by, expressing their opposition with words and sometimes middle fingers, it was a man in a vehicle who briefly destructed the piece but those in law enforcement and those set to protect the protesters First Amendment rights went into action mode; the moment captured on camera by ZachNews.

Well driving by the protests, a man in a dark vehicle pointed some sort of a rifle at the crowd of peaceful protesters, and fleed eastbound along Andy Devine Avenue.

Law enforcement seen running down sidewalks and alleyways as members of the press where running right behind them, searching for the man in the dark vehicle.

A few blocks east from Locomotive Park, a scene of multiple police patrol vehicles and personnel near the dark vehicle and talking to a man sitting on the curb of the sidewalk, they got their man.

ZachNews later learned by Kingman Police Department that the man in the dark vehicle pointed a replica AR-15 airsoft rifle at the crowd, and the video ZachNews posted captured the moment.

The man who disrupted the peace, 43 year old Robert J. Fernandes of Kingman, was booked into the Kingman Police Department for aggravated assault with deadly weapon and disorderly conduct with firearm.

As law enforcement went off to find the suspect, members of the Northern Arizona Militia and Arizona Freedom Militia – there to protect the protester’s First Amendment rights – rushed to protected the crowd, including surrounding organizer Shai who had threats on their lives prior to Tuesday’s protest, and even protecting the press from harm.

As things went back to peaceful protesting, ZachNews Photojournalist Zachary Lopez spoke with Rick Armstrong from the Northern Arizona Militia about their present at the protest and the moment that their group went to protect First Amendment with Second Amendment, as well as about the militia is and isn’t.

ZachNews asked Rick Armstrong what brought you to protect the people exercising their First Amendment right?

“You know, if you don’t use your rights – it’s like a muscle – it grows weak and they interior. These young people promised a peaceful protest but as we seen in cities all over the U.S., sometimes they’re not peaceful. We will look after the welfare of these young people; they out here exercising the First Amendment right, and we’re using our Second Amendment right to keep an eye on them. We want to make sure the Kingman doesn’t catch on fire the way that a lot of these other cities have,” said Rick Armstrong.

ZachNews asked Rick Armstrong about the incident that occurred a few hours before the interview when law enforcement and members of the two militia groups went into action mode; protecting the First Amendment with Second Amendment in ready.

“Well a knucklehead came by and decided to be fun to point in airsoft gun out the window which you can’t tell the difference between an airsoft gun and a real gun; they look so similar. Police officers took off after them, which left no one; no police officers in the park and our guys we moved in to protect the protesters. We had an intermingle with the protesters, three of them gathered around the organizer Shia, and their jobs were to protect her,” said Rick Armstrong.

Rick Armstrong continued about how the two militias groups were ready for this type of action, and explain to ZachNews what their role would be when if law enforcement went to go handle the crime.

“You know in our morning debrief with Chief Cooper (Chief of the Kingman Police Department) and his guys and the sheriff’s, the agreement was that we let law enforcement deal with law enforcementing; if they need us they’ll call us. Sheriff Schuster (Mohave County Sheriff’s Office) is very familiar with the militias in this area; he actually come out and done some training a few years ago with us. So when they took off to do their law enforcement which is what they needed to do – our first response always run towards gunfire, they never run away – we had our guys and I came cross our radios telling them to get into the crowd, to protect the crowd,” said Rick Armstrong.

Rick Armstrong than talked with ZachNews about the militias in the area, and cleared up some misconception and myths that are our there because of a few badass.

“The militias got a bad name; we had several people over the years that would have formed a quote on quote militia, and they’ll flat out break the law. And the militia has three purposes: put down an insurrection, protect the borders and to enforce the laws in with law enforcement. We actually train very very hard, all the gear that you see your sheriffs with and your military with we all have that same kind of gear, but we pay for that out of our own pocket,” said Rick Armstrong.

ZachNews asked Rick Armstrong about how people react to militia, what would you say militia that people may not know about, and with the fear that some in the community had about this protest, what do you think how everything went?

“People were scared at first because you know the media – mainstream media – tends to just push out fear; their ideologically is ‘if it bleeds, it leads’ regardless what the real narrative is, and they’ll spin it to make the absolute worst that they can. Real live reporting; seeing it, being here, they realize that we’re not radical nutjobs. Matter of fact, a lot of groups a lot of militias will run the radicals out; they don’t want the radicals, they don’t want the guy who just wants to throw a gun on his hip and walk around trying to look good like Billy badass to you know be in their group because it would bring discredit and there’s been a lot of discredit brought upon the militias movements. I’m a moderate on a site called: ModernMilitiaMovement.com and we don’t allow crazies in there, and we do that by purpose,” said Rick Armstrong.

Rick Armstrong continued, added, “And a big shout out to the law enforcement. They have been very very receptive to the militias that are out here. The sheriff’s put in a good word for us because he knows me, and he knows we don’t… I’ve sat and talked in-depth with – about what are militia standards are; about what we expect out of our people, and we hold our people accountable.”

ZachNews asked Rick Armstrong if there’s anything else you want to tell people and what happened today?

“You know, I’m really glad that this maintain very peaceful. We walk by these young people all day long. We’ve been out here in the heat and the sun with them since 6:30 this morning, it’s going on seven o’clock; we’re tired just like they are, but as we walk by these young people, they reach us and thanked us for being here. We may differ in ideology on certain pinions, but we’re all human; we all deserve respect and dignity that we can give out to each other,” said Rick Armstrong.

The protests continued on peacefully well members of the National Guard arrived to also help to make sure that all is peaceful and that no other disruption of the peace occurs like what occurred earlier by a motorist in the dark vehicle.

At the end of the day, all of the law enforcement agencies confirmed that there were no incidents of looting, violence or fires from any of the protesters; keeping to the promise by organizers that their protest is and will be peaceful.

Via email, ZachNews reached out to Naysha Rayn Powell, one of the organizers of the peaceful protest, to ask her about her reaction to George Floyd’s death, how the peaceful protest went and what would she like to see happen from all this.

ZachNews asked Naysha what was her reaction to the video of George Floyd’s death by the Minneapolis Police Department and the reaction that happened across our country?

“I couldn’t watch the entire thing I seen maybe 1:30 seconds of the video itself and I felt extremely devastated, angry, and tired of seeing yet another African American man murdered on camera by police. Seeing our country coming together in solidarity as quickly as we did was so powerful to me, the fact that regardless of what our opinions or beliefs are we can come together in a time when we need each other to demand change,” said Naysha Rayn Powell.

ZachNews asked Naysha how did the idea to put on a local protest in Kingman came to happen, and did you have help and support by those in the community?

“After seeing our country come together I felt compelled to do my part in my very own community no matter how little or significant it was I knew I couldn’t just sit back and not do or say anything. So I decided to start the Black lives matter protest in kingman Facebook page and posted it on the local buy sell trade. Within minutes Shai contacted me and asked if we could join together. We of course had those who doubted us and our fair share of threats but the support and the love coming from the community was overwhelming. Especially the support from our local law enforcement,” said Naysha Rayn Powell.

ZachNews asked Naysha as the protest was announced, what was the reaction like, and were you worry about any threats or those who would try to ruin the peaceful protest?

“After our protest was announced we had many negative reactions from those who didn’t know nor quite understand our intentions. I think everyone was on high alert given the negative stigma around protests right now with the riots, and looting so it was understandable. I was so worried about the safety of not only myself and Shai but also the safety of those who supported us, those who would potentially try to infiltrate Our protest, and the perseverance of our community businesses. From the beginning Shai and I made sure that our priority was making sure that the peace was kept, and to keep in constant contact with law enforcement as well,” said Naysha Rayn Powell.

ZachNews asked Naysha what do you think of how the protest turned out at Locomotive Park on Tuesday, what was the reaction by the community on the day of the protest and how many people you think attended?

“Thinking about all those who came to support and protect us, I still have no words to describe that feeling. It was so awesome and humbling to witness people from different races, backgrounds, and opposing political views come together as one and stand up for something that we each could agree upon. Throughout day people came and went and I believe our highest number was around 150 people. The vibe and tone was set from the supporters. There were a few people who shouted their disagreements but for the most part we received more love than anything,” said Naysha Rayn Powell.

As mentioned earlier, law enforcement was present at the protest, and they were welcomed in; both the people attending the protest and law enforcement were shaking hands, talking, and even laughing joking about the heat.

ZachNews asked Naysha what was the response by law enforcement regarding the protest and how did that make you feel to see that interaction between the people and law enforcement?

“Our law enforcement was very supportive from the beginning. Shai and I both agreed that was a priority for us to involve them as much as we could. It made me so happy and so proud of our community but most importantly our law enforcement I couldn’t thank them enough for their protection and constant communication with Shai and I throughout the planning process,” said Naysha Rayn Powell.

During the protest, a few people drove by screaming “All Lives Matter” to those holding signs that said “Black Lives Matter,” and on social media people saying that this shouldn’t be about black lives and that this protest was to promote only black lives and hatred towards law enforcement.

There have been also comments worrying that violence and looting what’s going to happen in the small community, but from what was witness, the protest was peaceful and protesters calmly responsing to those who disagree with the protest, and welcoming response to law enforcement being there at the protest instead of hate and dislikes.

ZachNews asked Naysha what who you like to tell people about the message of this protest, what would like to see happen, what would you like to say about those who say “All Lives Matter” and this is all about hating law enforcement?

“My message was about bringing to light the injustices fellow Americans are experiencing, and to stand together in honor of Mr. George Floyd. It was not about disregarding all lives because I agree all lives do matter but the best example I can give to those who state “all lives matter” is imagine a house is on fire in your neighborhood and firefighters are spraying water on the house on fire and you yell out “well what about my house?” Yes of course your house is important but it isn’t on fire. We can’t allow those who are sworn under oath to protect us get away with committing crimes, we also cannot confuse and think that one bad cop represents all cops,” said Naysha Rayn Powell.

ZachNews asked Naysha about the scary moment during the protest involving a man pointing a weapon, later to be a replica AR15 airsoft rifle.

Naysha told ZachNews that she wasn’t there at the exact moment it happened but, “Shai called me right away and filled me in on the situation and mentioned that law enforcement and local militia handled the individual swiftly.”

ZachNews asked Naysha who would you like to thank and any message and or advice you have to the people who are protesting; those who have been hurt and done wrong by law enforcement; those in law enforcement, especially those who’ve condemn the acts by Minneapolis Police Department towards George Floyd; and to the family of George Floyd as they mourn?

“First and foremost I would like to thank Shai for being so amazing and for helping me organize this protest I truly have found a friend for life in her, the Kingman police dept, Mohave county sheriffs dept, and regional law enforcement agencies who assisted us in helping upkeep our message of peace, as well as the community of Kingman for your support because without you this would have never possible. Thank you a million times over for everything. To our fellow protestors keep it up your voice matters and is crucial in a time like this, WE hear you. To the family of George Floyd I am with you, I see you, and I love you and may this incredible king who is making history and sparking change in the world rest in eternal peace!,” said Naysha Rayn Powell.

Overall, what was witnessed was people of different backgrounds, politico party affiliate, race, ages, beliefs and non beliefs not clashing with each other, but coming together and working together peaceful.

Again, there will be two more peaceful protests at Locomotive Park from 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

*** More Information can be found at the following website: ***

https://facebook.com/events/s/black-lives-matter-protest-in-/471978780278579/?ti=as

We may have our differences but what was witness with protesters and those serve to protect rights and live can coexist and come together, and that there is hope in this community that the people and law enforcement can work together by building a strong foundation and relationship with all people of all race that treats people law enforcement serve with respect, fairness and understanding well making sure that those set to ruin law enforcement are kept out and not wear the badge; wearing the badge is with honor and with honor comes responsibility and accountability, something that all people want from law enforcement, and law enforcement want to never act in a way that hurts discredited or dishonor the badge they wear.

May we all continue to work together peaceful to fix what is broken in the system, to build back the relationship between the people and law enforcement and work to make sure that those who want to do wrongfully take lives get held accountable, for George Floyd and all people.

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