Lopez Island signs memorialize lives lost

Being on a small island off the shores of Washington state has not stopped locals from elevating Black voices in any way that they can. A recent action included placing signs along Fisherman Bay Road with the names of victims of police brutality and white supremacy.

“By putting up the signs along the road on Lopez Island, we are reminding ourselves and others to continue the momentum of this moment, to stand with black and brown folks of all genders demanding change and to continue to educate ourselves on the systemic racism and white supremacy that is at the foundation of our lives in the United States,” protest organizers told the Weekly. “The signs are intended to connect us with these real people and experience the emotion of the unnecessary loss of their lives.”

The organizers requested their names not be used so that the names of the victims may be recognized instead. Organizers noted, simply, “We are a multi-generational, multi-gendered dynamic group of Lopez residents.”

Initially, 28 names are painted on the signs including two local indigenous men. The names include Trayvon Martin; Willie McCoy; Dontre Hamilton; Manuel Ellis; Stonechild Chiefstick; Dominique Rem’mie Fells; Riah Milton; Tony McDade; Rayshard Brooks; George Floyd; Breonna Taylor; Philando Castile; Eric Garner; Michael Brown; Latasha Harlins; John T. Williams; Sandra Bland; Alton Sterling; Aiyana Stanley-Jones; Rekia Boyd; Jonathan Ferrell; Ahmaud Arbery; Eric Logan; Eleanor Bumpurs; Mya Hall; Arthur McDuffie; Kayla Moore; and Michelle Casseaux.

“There are so many more, too many more, that we couldn’t include,” organizers said. “May we remember and honor their names and their lives. May they rest in power.”

Organizers created the signs in solidarity with the #SayHerName campaign, which launched in December 2014. The campaign’s goal is to bring awareness to the names and stories of Black women and girls who have been victimized by racist police, the organizers explained. It has since expanded to #SayTheirNames to encompass the names of the hundreds of unarmed Black, Indigenous and People of Color who have died due to police brutality and white supremacy.

Since May 31, islanders on Orcas, Lopez and San Juan have joined with thousands of people in cities across the nation and the world to protest police brutality — specifically against Black people — in the wake of the death of Floyd, who was 46, in Minneapolis, Minnesota, on May 25.

Floyd, a Black man, died after three police officers held him down as they arrested him for an alleged forgery, one pressing his knee into Floyd’s neck for more nine minutes. Floyd pleaded that he could not breathe for nearly six of those minutes. One officer held back witnesses who filmed the interaction. Floyd fell into unconsciousness at the scene and was pronounced dead at the hospital, according to Minneapolis police. Four officers were fired and ultimately charged as a direct result of Floyd’s death.

Protest organizers would like to inform the community there will be continued demonstrations in solidarity from noon-2 p.m., Sundays, at the corner of Village and Fisherman Bay roads. Additional signs were painted on June 28 to add to the growing list of names.

“People are welcome to add more names to the installation, bring flowers, art or memorial items,” Organizers said.

Rhea Miller/contributed photo

Rhea Miller/contributed photo