EVANSTON — A group of Bridger Valley residents gathered on the corner at the Lyman Town Hall on Saturday, July 11, to support Black Lives Matter. At 12:30 p.m., 14 people of all ages came bearing signs and as the hours passed, more supporters joined. Toward the end of the afternoon, 10 high school students continued the demonstration.
One of the first to arrive, Tansy Shelton carried a sign that said, “Black Lives Matter — If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.” Shelton said she had participated in a first protest on June 13, and on that day there was no reaction from anyone.
On Saturday, however, down a block and on an opposite corner from the BLM supporters, a large group gathered in opposition. Twenty men, women and children stood in front of their pickups at the Maverik store parking lot. Rifles and pistols were visibly displayed by a few of the men and Trump flags flew from the backs of pickups.
The local police were in attendance with one car parked behind the Trump group and one on the opposite corner, near the BLM supporters. Another police car patrolled the area, and for a short time and a man with the Bridger Valley Fire Department was parked in front of the fire station.
He told the Herald, he wanted to make sure no one burned down his fire hall.
“A rumor went viral that we were going to have a busload of Blacks and others coming to join us,” Shelton said, “so that is why the Trump people showed up over on the corner. I felt a little threatened when one guy with an automatic rifle kept staring at us the whole time.”
Barbara and Pete Roitz of Fort Bridger were part of the support for Black Lives Matter and joined from the beginning that day. Barbara told the Herald that a guy with an AR-15-style weapon had been directly across the street from them and had stared at them as he walked to join the Trump group on the other corner.
“Anyone who carries an [assault weapon] and intimidates others is a coward,” Barbara Roitz said. “Our group didn’t give him any response to react to. However, it is frightening to see someone walk down the street with an AK-47 or an AR-15. These people are all our friends and neighbors; we should be able to disagree without weapons involved.”
She said two teenage girls kept driving back and forth in front of the support group. They held signs that said “Trump 2020” and “All Lives Matter.” She also said the pro-Trump group sent a drone to fly over the heads of the BLM group, so they turned their BLM signs up so the drone could photograph them. Roitz and Shelton said both groups remained non-combative and peaceful and there were no violent incidents throughout the afternoon.
As most of the others in the BLM group were leaving, a group of 10 teens came bearing their BLM signs and continued the demonstration. A leader in the group, BoDee Busskohl, put pictures and the following statement on his Facebook page:
“So proud of me, my friends and our community for going out and facing harassment for hours to stand up for what’s right. If you participated in this protest thank you so much! You guys are amazing people. Thank you for standing up for what’s right! Because black lives DO matter.”