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Protesters face off over support of police in Pine Island

A group protesting the use of a flag supporting police held a rally in Pine Island while a separate group countered their message.

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Alice Kopp, one of the organizers of the protest, leads a chant during a protest against police violence Thursday, June 25, 2020, along South Main Street in Pine Island. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)
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PINE ISLAND — About 20 people – equally spread on both sides of South Main Street as well as the issues – showed up for a rally Thursday morning in Pine Island.

Sakura Hines and Alice Kopp said they wanted to lend their voice to the voiceless over the issue of police brutality and Black people being killed by the police after the Pine Island Fire Department had flown a flag recently that showed support for law enforcement.

"People have to be able to say Black lives matter," Hines said.

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Sakura Hines, on of the organizers of the protest, takes part in a protest against police violence Thursday, June 25, 2020, along South Main Street in Pine Island. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

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Members of her group held signs saying "Black Lives Matter" and "I Can't Breath," a reference to the death of George Floyd last month at the hands of then-Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.

The problem came to a head last week when Pine Island resident Joe Loftus addressed the City Council with his concerns over a statement made by Council member Kelly Leibold, who commented on her personal Facebook account that "the American policing system is corrupt."

Loftus said while what happened to Floyd was horrible, he took issue with a member of the city council including good cops and good law enforcement agencies with what happened in Minneapolis.

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Justin White, 2, takes part in a protest against police violence with his parents Darcell White, left, and Torria White, right, Thursday, June 25, 2020, along South Main Street in Pine Island. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

On Thursday, Hines said the problem with the "Blue Lives" flag that flew at the fire hall is really a matter of timing, with it being flown so soon after the death of Floyd on Memorial Day. His death has sparked protests -- some peaceful, some violent -- about racial discrimination across the nation. Further, she hopes people hear the message that small towns can and should be accepting of people no matter their race.

"Many small towns have a stigma," Hines said. "Pine Island is among them. We're happy to break that stigma."

Kopp added that the goal was to show Black and Indigenous members of the community that they are supported by the community at large.

"All lives can't matter until Black lives matter," she said. "We're against police violence, against police murdering Black people."

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Riley Weiss, of Pine Island, takes part in a counter protest across the street from a protest against police violence Thursday, June 25, 2020, along South Main Street in Pine Island. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Riley Weis, who stood on the corner diagonally across the street while holding an American flag, said he agreed that what happened to Floyd was horrible and should be addressed.

"Do I think those four should be locked up?" he asked, rhetorically, of the Minneapolis police officers who are charged in Floyd's death. "Yeah."

But he disagreed that all law enforcement should be labeled as corrupt.

"America's falling apart," Weis said. "We need to be putting it back together. We all are Americans, not separate."

He said protesters like those across the street from him were inflaming racial tensions, not fixing the problem. For example, he said he'd never seen a Black person mistreated in Pine Island. Furthermore, when he heard about the protest on Facebook, he asked some Black friends if they planned to join the protesters.

"My Black friends don't support them," he said, referring to the group across the street.

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Logan Fohrman, of Pine Island, takes part in a counter protest across the street from a protest against police violence Thursday, June 25, 2020, along South Main Street in Pine Island. (Joe Ahlquist / jahlquist@postbulletin.com)

Related Topics: EVENTSPINE ISLANDBLACK LIVES MATTERGEORGE FLOYD
Brian Todd is the news editor at the Post Bulletin. When not at work, he spends time with his family, roots for the Houston Astros and watches his miniature dachshund sleep, which is why that dog is more bratwurst than hotdog. Readers can reach Brian at 507-285-7715 or btodd@postbulletin.com.
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