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Carson City Protest In Solidarity With Jacob Blake Shows Heightened Safety Concerns

Three people in the front have their backs to the camera and are facing a crowd of people. Everyone has their fists in the air.
This Is Reno
Black Lives Matter demonstration in Carson City, Nev., on Saturday, August 29.

Black Lives Matter supporters demonstrated in Carson City over the weekend in solidarity with Jacob Blake, a Black man who is now paralyzed after being shot several times by law enforcement in Kenosha, Wisconsin. As the demonstration ended, a protester was struck by a car, and there was a separate incident of accidental gunfire.

About 70 Black Lives Matter protesters gathered in front of the Nevada State Capitol Building. The group has been demonstrating at this spot almost every Saturday since the killing of George Floyd, a Black man in Minneapolis who died after a white police officer knelt on his neck in May of this year.

Side profile of a woman in a black shirt, mask, and hat, holding a microphone.
Credit TY O'NEIL / This Is Reno
This Is Reno
Carson City native and protest organizer NeJae Jackson giving a speech at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Carson City, Nev., on Saturday, August 29.

For Jacob Blake, viral video footage shows Blake walking to the driver's side of his SUV and officers followed him. One grabbed Blake’s shirt and seven shots can be heard. Blake's three children were in the vehicle and witnessed the shooting. This was just last week.

Blake is paralyzed from the incident, something Carson City protest organizer, NeJae Jackson, said will change his life.

"Jacob Blake may never be able to play with his kids the same, or hold his kids the same, due to a bullet. Jacob Blake will forever be scarred mentally and physically due to a bullet. No, you see, this is not due to a bullet. This is not even due to several bullets. This was caused by an officer's lack of ability to handle situations like Jacob's and countless others," Jackson said.

One demonstrator, Kevin Brunner, an activist from South Lake Tahoe, said it was hard to even collect his thoughts when he saw the footage of Jacob Blake being shot.

"To be honest, words can't even describe how I want to describe this, or feel, or emotions," Brunner said. "I'm speechless really on that," Brunner said, "like, what else do you need to see?”

A man raises a fist with one hand and a peace sign with the other.
Credit TY O'NEIL / This Is Reno
This Is Reno
Kevin Brunner (front), an activist from South Lake Tahoe, at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Carson City, Nev., on Saturday, August 29.

Another issue on Brunner’s mind: safety while practicing the First Amendment right to peaceably assemble.

“I don't want to just get met by bullets for doing what this country said that we're allowed to do," Brunner said.

As the demonstration was ending, a Black Lives Matter supporter accidentally released one shot into the sky from an assault style weapon that was slung on his shoulder. No one was hurt.

Law enforcement immediately surrounded the 22-year-old Sparks resident, who swiftly dropped to his knees with his hands in the air. The weapon was taken by law enforcement and the individual was cooperative while being questioned. He was not taken into custody. Carson City Sheriff Kenny Furlong told reporters it was being looked at as an accidental discharge.

Shortly after that, a caravan of counter-protestors drove by with President Donald Trump banners and American flags attached to their cars, flapping in the wind. They honked in solidarity with the few counter-protesters waving ‘All Lives Matter’ signs near the BLM supporters.

A woman is teary eyed. Her mask says, "Black Lives Matter" and the mask is wet under one of her eyes.
Credit TY O'NEIL / This Is Reno
This Is Reno
Black Lives Matter supporter Brittany Kindersmith after she was struck by a car at a Black Lives Matter demonstration in Carson City, Nev., on Saturday, August 29.

That’s when one BLM supporter, Brittany Kindersmith of Carson City, was struck by a vehicle, knocking her to the ground while she was in a crosswalk.

Kindersmith did not require medical attention. She had a scuff mark on her leg and said her wrist hurt from catching her fall.

"I'm glad that if someone was going to get hit, it was me, because I don't know if she would have stopped, or driven as slowly as she was driving, if it would have been a person of color, and that is why I stand out here," Kindersmith said.

Kindersmith, who has been attending Black Lives Matter protests regularly, said she’s been feeling increasingly unsafe at demonstrations.

“My son likes to come. I didn't bring him today, for example, just because it makes me more afraid that, you know, these people are starting to get angrier that are coming out and protesting against us, it feels like," Kindersmith said.

Sheriff Furlong, who has also been present for a majority of the Saturday BLM gatherings, said there is always an element of risk at protests.

“Today's incidents are a prime example of the dangers that we have at all of these demonstrations: Nevada is an open carry state. These roadways are narrow. There are emotions involved," Furlong said.

Furlong said no arrests were made and both of the incidents are being investigated. For Kindersmith, she said this won’t deter her from standing in solidarity with people of color.

Lucia Starbuck is a corps member with Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth project.

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