Black Lives Matter protesters peacefully march on Frisco Main Street as police accountability bill moves through the state Legislature

FRISCO — A large crowd peacefully marched down Frisco’s Main Street on Thursday morning, joining the ever-growing chorus of voices speaking out against police brutality and racial injustices worldwide.

More than a week after protesters mounted their first march in Breckenridge, momentum seems to be picking up among local activists in the Black Lives Matter movement as community members and officials continue to share their experiences and push for change in Summit County and around the country.

“It makes me cry seeing how many people are out here supporting this,” said Kiarra Galvez, who organized the march. “I feel like there are more people here than at the Breck march, and it’s great that with some notice people were able to make the time to come out and make a change. …

“It’s nice to know we have support from our community. Our police were out here, our mayor was out here, our town officials were out here. They do want to be active in making changes. That was the message of today.”

At 11 a.m., a crowd well in excess of 100 people gathered near Fourth Avenue and marched down Main Street shouting “black lives matter” and chanting the name of Breonna Taylor, a black woman who was shot and killed by police who entered her Louisville, Kentucky, apartment March 13.

Members of the Frisco Police Department also joined in the march, including Chief Tom Wickman.

Protesters then gathered at the Frisco Historic Park & Museum, where community members and elected officials from Frisco, Summit County and Summit School District shared their thoughts on ongoing issues, and changes happening locally and around the state as a result of the movement.

Among those who addressed the crowd were County Commissioner Elisabeth Lawrence, Frisco council member Andy Held and Frisco Mayor Hunter Mortensen.

“We’re bigger than just a small town and the folks who live here,” Mortensen told the Summit Daily News about his decision to march. “People come here from all over the country and the world, and we need to show that we value everyone, and equality and justice for every person. And we do have our own problems.

“We have a huge socioeconomic split, and often times that can be seen as discrimination, as well. We need to make sure that’s not overlooked. There are communities within our own town that we need to recognize aren’t represented well or are marginalized. And that’s not right.”

Protesters also voiced strong support for the Enhance Law Enforcement Integrity bill making its way through the state Legislature, a sweeping measure meant to improve police accountability and transparency throughout the state.

The bill, backed by Summit Rep. Julie McCluskie, passed through the state Senate earlier this week and is making its way through the House. If passed into law, the bill would require all local law enforcement agencies to use body cameras and to release footage to the public within 21 days after an incident.

The bill also would task the Department of Public Safety with creating an annual report outlining data on each agency’s contacts with the public, use of force and more that would be publicly searchable. Under the proposed changes, any officer found to have used or threatened unlawful use of force would permanently lose their Peace Officer Standards and Training certification, and officers would be subject to personal liability in certain cases where there’s no reasonable belief their actions were lawful.

Additionally, the bill would create new standards for use of force, restrict which measures agencies are able to take in response to protests or demonstrations, require officers to intervene when another officer is using unlawful physical force and more.

Several of Summit County’s law enforcement leaders — who earlier this week wrote an open letter to the community — have come out largely in support of the bill, though there’s somewhat of a consensus that they would like the Legislature to slow things down to reduce any unintended consequences.

“Any time you pass legislation you’re casting a net,” Breckenridge Police Chief Jim Baird said. “You’re always going to miss some of what you’re going for, and you’re always going to grab something you didn’t intend. … There are legitimate issues that need to be addressed, and we totally support that across the profession. I’ve spoken to all of our law enforcement leaders in Summit County, and we want to make sure that the sense of urgency to pass this legislation doesn’t take the lead to the point where there are components that are going to have unintended consequences and potentially make matters worse.

“Our hope is that conversations continue, and we’re able to offer our professional expertise to get to a point where the drafters of the bill and the community as a whole see what they want to happen.”

Dillon Police Chief Mark Heminghous said passing a bill haphazardly could set back the entire process.

“I agree with the intent of the reform, and you can’t dispute the need for it,” Heminghous said. “But we need to slow it down a little bit just so that we don’t have to go back and redo things. That makes the process more difficult. … Let’s do it right as best as we can and get it done the first time. Sometimes there’s unforeseeable things we’ll have to change. But it is time for some reform.”

As lawmakers measure potential changes at the state level, advocates in Summit County remain proactive in effecting change locally. Earlier this week, Breckenridge began efforts to establish a Social Equity Advisory Commission in town.

March organizers also have started a Facebook page called Summit Together, where community members can share resources and discuss issues. And more events are in the works, including a monthly Solidarity Talk kicking of in Silverthorne on June 17.

“We want to use the momentum and energy we have at these wonderful events and apply that to a conversation,” said Alexandria Carns, who’s organizing the event. “We all know what the problem is, and we need to attack it. That’s what the talks are about, keeping things moving so we can facilitate changes.

“Our voices are being heard, and it feels amazing, but we want to keep it going. We don’t want this to be something trendy that fizzles out.”

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