News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Residents demonstrate for justice

More than 50 people gathered on the corner of Locust and Highway 20 last Saturday in a demonstration advocating for racial justice.

In the aftermath of George Floyd’s death at the hands of a police officer in Minnesota, hundreds of protests and demonstrations have been happening across the world.

In Sisters, a group of locals decided it was time to show their support in their town. Katie (who requested that her last name not be published due to professional security concerns) helped organize the event on Saturday. She put out on her social media that she wanted to create a gathering of demonstrators.

“I think it is important, especially here in a predominately white town, to show our support and make everyone feel welcome here, especially kids and young people, and for them to know that they matter,” she said.

Katie reached out to friends and family who then reached out to others and word spread, creating a gathering of over 50 demonstrators holding signs and waving at passing cars. Passing drivers would often honk and wave back in support.

“I hope that people driving by really start to think critically about why they wouldn’t be able to agree with the statement ‘Black Lives Matter.’ I hope that we can be examples for others as well,” Katie said.

Sisters High School art teacher Bethany Gunnarson brought sign-making materials to the event Saturday.

“I think it is awesome that the city of Sisters is getting their voices out there,” said Gunnarson. “Words are usually not really my thing, I more create things but I wanted to stand with my friends here and help out and be a voice for the community.”

Community member Pete Shepherd was one of the many demonstrators out on Saturday. He said he was out in support to memorialize George Floyd.

“I hope also to stimulate my own thinking about what I and we can do to make this situation better,” he said. He hopes that this can be an occasion for everyone to think about what they can actively do to help. It was the first time in 50-plus years that Shepherd has held up a sign.

“The last time I held up a sign at a demonstration was 50 years ago since the Vietnam War,” he said

Sisters High School graduate Margo Bruguier was also amongst demonstrators and she was there in hopes to represent the Sisters community to marginalized groups.

“I want to let the marginalized groups of people know that our community supports them and that their voices will no longer remain unheard,” said Bruguier.

Bruguier thought the location was a good place to reach a broad audience as it is heavily traveled.

“It will hopefully start the conversation with family members as they see us when they drive by,” she said.

One of Bruguier’s biggest hopes from these demonstrations is that more education will come out of it.

“I think we need to be more proactive in teaching about racism within the schools and with each other. It is a privilege to be able to learn about it and I think it’s important to teach about it and understand that it is real and present, everyone has to talk about it,” she said.

Two Sisters High School graduates — sisters Mary and Liz Stewart — were also out. Mary was out there “because I want to stand in solidarity with our black brothers and sisters and demonstrate against the unfair treatment of them in our country,” she said. Liz said, “I want to help normalize people changing their views and that it is totally OK to learn and change your views on something, especially in this time.”

Mary Stewart also said that she hopes that at least, it will get families and community members talking about racism in the United States, no matter what you believe.

“I hope at least doing this will get people starting those important conversations with their kids,” she said.

Cheryl Stewart, Mary and Liz’s mother, was among demonstrators.

“I am here because my Christian faith calls upon me to do this,” said Stewart.

She believes that the Black Lives Matter movement is not a political, partisan or religious issue, but a humanity issue.

“I hope that this time is a watershed moment for our country to get this right; it isn’t about Christian views versus non-Christian, it is an issue of humanity,” she said. She hopes that the audience of drivers see this as a necessary movement.

“We are not here to dilute the message of Black Lives Matter and make it about something else. In order for all lives to matter, black lives have to matter too,” she said.

Sisters High School teacher, Gail Greaney and her family held signs.

“I think the time of not doing anything is well passed — it is important that people that were silent now step up,” she said.

She expressed that every car honk is another ally in the fight for justice. Greaney also hopes that since it is 2020, and racism is still in communities and around the world, that people can acknowledge the problem and speak up.

“I hope all of this at least starts the conversation again, keeping the issue an actual problem, opposed to just focusing on one part of it when something happens; it all becomes cyclical,” she said.

Greaney strongly believes in the community figuring out their own role in actually doing something, whether it be demonstrating, documenting, or just having the tough conversations.

“Pick one thing or way and do something,” she said.


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