Protestors marched in Old Town Scottsdale on Sunday, June 7, as part of a nationwide series of protests against police brutality. Two weeks before, on May 25, George Floyd died in Minneapolis under the knee of then-cop Derek Chauvin, who’s facing second degree murder charges. Dion Johnson died in Phoenix that same day, after being shot by a state Department of Public Safety trooper.
Sunday’s march was scheduled to start at 5 p.m. at Second Street and Goldwater. By 4 p.m., about three dozen cars had parked in a lot on the southwest corner, near staples of the Old Town arts scene including Stagebrush Theatre, Scottsdale Artists’ School, and Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West. Police cars with colored flashing lights dotted nearby streets, and a small number of officers stood interspersed with the crowd.
The Scottsdale Police Department staging area was situated many blocks east, in a shopping center at the southwest corner of Hayden and Miller roads. “What, we have the military here now?” a man called out after spotting four tan military-style vehicles lined up along the east end of the shopping center parking lot.
Marchers congregated on a plaza near the Museum of the West, where Armonee Jackson of Mesa talked about how she’d organized the march earlier in the week, coordinating the route with the Scottsdale Police Department and spreading the word using her Twitter account. Jackson serves as the NAACP state president for Arizona, and she hopes marches around the Valley can help accomplish some very specific goals.
“I hope some lawmakers will reach out about Black Lives Matter policies,” she told Phoenix New Times before the march got underway. “Every officer should have a body cam." But she also has a larger goal. “We need to completely get rid of police, then use that money to help low-income communities with things like education.”
A Scottsdale police officer standing at the plaza estimated there were at least 1,500 people at the event, but that was before latecomers trickled in. Among the protesters were a dozen or so indigenous allies from a group called the American Indian Movement, including a man who lit a bundle of sage before the walkers set out. Nearby, a Las Vegas nurse named Zachary Pritchett wearing red scrubs stood with a friend, holding a sign that read "Racism is a Public Health Crisis."
The march got underway as Tim Martin of Scottsdale led the crowd in repeating a simple phrase that’s been shouted countless times in chants around the country and beyond: “No justice, no peace.” Martin held a simple sign made with white poster board and markers reading “Black Lives Matter.” Others marched with signs bearing different slogans, from "I Can't Breath" to "Rebellions Are Built on Hope."
The protesters walked in a giant square, moving from Scottsdale Road to Indian School Road, then heading back along Drinkwater to Second Street. People looked on as the protesters, sometimes chanting, walked north down the middle of Scottsdale Road, in a section where cars couldn't drive during the protest.
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A gallery owner, who asked not to be named for fear he might be singled out by looters, filmed part of the protest on his cell phone while standing on the corner of Scottsdale and Main Street. He’s one of several gallery owners who boarded up his space after the May 30 protests that ended with rioting and looting at Scottsdale Fashion Square — and the eventual arrest of social media influencer Jake Paul.
Sunday’s protest was peaceful throughout, wrapping up at 7 p.m. as planned back at the Museum of the West, where people lingered for a final call to action. Meanwhile, the gallery owner continued to keep his eye on Main Street, after hearing that another protest might happen that night — but with a group that wasn’t taking the peaceful approach.
Melissa and Greg Cole, who live in Phoenix, gathered on a sidewalk with friends as the protest was coming to a close. “We had a good turnout,” Melissa told New Times. “It’s a good start.” Greg was glad to see a diverse crowd protesting together in Scottsdale. “It gives people a chance to see that visual,” he says. “I hope it opens some eyes.”