REXBURG − George Floyd’s life was taken on May 25 by Minneapolis police. Protests and riots have spread to all corners of the U.S. and across the Atlantic in Japan and England. Around the world “Black Lives Matter” can be seen written on billboards.
Last weekend the movement came to Rexburg in the form of a memorial for George Floyd at Porter Park. Students also used tape and chalk art at the intersection of West Second South and South First West to showcase a message of support with scripture references and “I Can’t Breath.” Written on the sidewalk. Those messages are no longer there because someone washed them away.
Rexburg Mayor Jerry Merrill attended the memorial at Porter Park and said it went very well.
“People wanted to get together and talk a little bit about the awareness of some of the events that happened recently,” Merrill said. “I think this is meant to just make us here in Rexburg aware that sometimes there are situations that happen that make minority people feel uncomfortable. Religious and racial minorities.”
Merrill said the memorial serves as a reminder that we should treat everyone with kindness, love and respect. He said the event was peaceful and respectful.
“No one had any interest in violence and I appreciated that,” Merrill said. “I made some new friends and it was a really good event.”
Kagiso Dikane, a black student BYU-I studying financial economics attended the event. He said it was cool to feel the support of his fellow students after a tough week for black individuals in America.
“The best part of this event that occurred was my white brothers and sisters came out in high numbers,” Dikane said. “They were by far the majority. That’s more encouraging because they’re not being silent but they’re actually being understanding that there’s racial injustice and racial inequality.”
When asked if anyone there expressed to him that they felt unsafe in Rexburg Merrill said no.
“I talked with several international students from Zimbabwe and South Africa about their experience here and they feel safe,” he said.
Dikane said Rexburg is in a unique circumstance because the University is so much more diverse than Eastern Idaho generally and Rexburg’s community specifically.
Out of all the BYU’s. I worked in the BYUI admissions office. When I was there for a year and a half. There were like 20,000 students. Idaho the state is all predominantly white. Rexburg is very diverse compared to the rest of Idaho mainly because of the University.
”The reason [this movement] is important in Rexburg specifically is sometimes people aren’t aware of specific cultural differences,” Dikane said. “That’s one of the things that I’ve stressed a lot in my social media posts. Many people aren’t racist. They just don’t realize that there are certain things that could offend — there are certain things they are doing that aren’t right. There’s just been so much lack of communication because we’re used to be around people with the same cultural background that it’s hard for us to get outside ourselves to embrace other cultures and ethnicities.”
Merrill said some locals did express some concern that people they knew were a little bit fearful and had moved from Rexburg because of some comments and experiences they’ve had.
“We’re not immune,” he said. “People need to be careful of the things they say and do. Sometimes in ways we don’t even realize.”
Madison County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Isaac Payne also released a video recently on how to apprehend a violent individual without harming them. The video came after the news of Floyd’s death.
This article has been edited.