Wheeler County is the least populated county in Oregon and it is also one of the least ethnically diverse counties in the state. Approximately 90% of Wheeler County is white.
That did not stop organizers of Friday’s Black Lives Matter rally in Fossil. Attendees said that even in the smallest of towns and counties, people have an obligation to stand up to racism.
Moved by national protests and a global push for equality, nearly 40 people came out to participate in the rally. Gathering on Fossil’s Main Street, participants wore masks and kept a distance from others on the sidewalk.
Several people from John Day attended but the crowd was predominately made up of locals from Fossil, Spray and a couple of people from Condon.
Organizer Angi Humphreys said that she had immediately reached out to local law enforcement when they decided to hold the protest. Mrs. Humphreys said that she wanted to make it clear that the protest was not against local law enforcement and that there would be no animosity directed towards police at the event.
Mrs. Humphreys said that she has several family members who have served in law enforcement and that the event in Fossil was designed to be positive and to bring people together to oppose racism in America. The mother of a black child, Mrs. Humphreys said that this is an important issue for her personally and she realized it took courage for people in small communities to come out and protest.
Mrs. Humphreys is an educator in Fossil and was joined by several other teachers as well as family members who came to show their support. Trevor and Bobbie Humphreys brought their children and held signs that read “Black Lives Matter,” “United We Stand” and “All Lives Won’t Matter Until Black Lives Matter.”
Trevor Humphreys said that “it is important for people to see us who live in rural communities standing up for justice.”
Some cars that drove by honked in support, others ignored the protesters. Regardless, organizer Mollie Carter was pleased that so many came out on such short notice. Mollie said that they had decided to do the rally just a couple nights before.
“When I texted Angi the other night, I didn’t think we’d have nearly so many people. I am very excited to see how many of you showed up,” Mollie said.
John Myers said that he moved to Fossil about a year ago from Portland and felt obligated to take part. “The last time I did this was during the Vietnam War,” said Mr. Myers. “The same stuff was going on, the Watts riots, Detroit. It’s like, when is it going to stop?”
The protest also brought out several young people. Conner Brian Thompson came with his grandmother Shannon Duerden Thompson. Mrs. Duerden Thompson said that it is time for substantive change in America. Conner, who is 10 yeas old, agreed and said that he hopes his generation sees changes coming from this historic moment. “I hope that things are more free and fair than they are now,” Conner said.
Speaking to protesters at the end of the event, Mrs. Humphreys pushed those in attendance to do more. “Ask questions. Learn, read. Become not just an ally, become anti-racist,” she said.