Since the death of George Floyd, thousands of people across the United States, and the world, have come together to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
We’ve seen demonstrations spanning from the metropolitan cities of the U.S. to rural towns, even here in Rexburg.
Shortly after Floyd’s death, Josh Duke, a BYU-Idaho student, and his wife, Simone Duke-French, decided to organize peaceful protests at Porter Park in Rexburg.
“It just hit home for us when we heard everything that was going on with George Floyd and those protests, so we wanted to start a small protest [ourselves],” Simone said.
The protests happened the week after Floyd was killed, the biggest one taking place back on June 4.
Josh and Simone said while some people didn’t want to join or write their names on their homemade signs, the reception in Rexburg overall was positive.
The protests in Rexburg were among many protests in Idaho, ranging from cities like Idaho Falls, Pocatello, Boise and more.
Josh and Simone decided to start these protests because of a friend who was killed in a police shooting last year.
Devon Bailey, a 19-year-old African American man who attended high school with Josh and Simone, was stopped by police last August in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
Police stopped Bailey and another man who was with him after officers received a call of a suspected armed robbery.
When officers tried to check Bailey and the other man for a weapon, Bailey ran away.
Within seconds, Bailey was shot by multiple officers while he was running away. Police did find a gun on him, but it was not within his reach at the time the shots fired.
Bailey died at the hospital later that day. The shooting was ruled as justified. Bailey’s estate has now named the city of Colorado Springs and the two officers in a wrongful death lawsuit.
Josh and Simone said they had a hard time emotionally when Bailey died.
“The feelings of sadness for the family member and for our friends were very hard emotions to sit through as a white person,” Josh said. “It’s hard to sit there and have those feelings and not being able to do something.”
Josh and Simone felt Bailey’s death was the spark that lit the flame for them starting peaceful protests.
Bailey’s death is one of the factors that led the Colorado House of Representatives to pass a police reform and accountability bill.
According to the article by Patch.com, the bill always holds officers accountable by requiring the use of body cameras, and outlaws the use of deadly force when a suspect is fleeing when they don’t pose an immediate risk to anyone around them.
The bill also outlaws the use of chokeholds and a wide variety of things.
While Devon Bailey lost his life, Josh and Simone have found some comfort in the fact that things are changing all around us, and they can help stand up for so many people who are oppressed.
“I know that God put me here in Rexburg to do these peaceful protests, and to help the people here in Rexburg see that [what’s going on] is not okay,” Josh said. “If [we] were raised right morally, there is no “All Lives Matter” right now.”