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City Council Says “Black Lives Matter”, Will Still Support Nome Police Force

A collection of Nome citizens march in solidarity for Black Lives Matter. Photo from JoJo Phillips, KNOM. (2020)

The City of Nome officially declared that Black Lives Matter by signing their support of the movement into a resolution on Monday night. Council members were clear in their comments: their support is for the movement against racial injustice and not to endorse any particular organization.

Although the Black community in Nome is small, Councilmember Jerald Brown thinks the movement is relevant because of Nome’s history of racial discrimination against Alaska Native people.

“The movement is something that has pointed out the inequities that have existed in this country from day one. Specifically in Nome that has been true as well for the last 120 years. I’m not saying we haven’t made progress in recent years, we have; we’ve made a lot of progress, but there’s a long way to go still.”  

Councilmember Meghan Siġvanna Topkok put forward the resolution.

“As an Indigenous woman I stand in solidarity with my Black brothers and sisters and what they’re going through. And I know that in return they’re absolutely going to uphold the issues that Indigenous people bring to the light and the injustices that we experience.”

Not everyone supported the resolution or the movement itself. Nome resident, and mayoral candidate, Kenny Hughes likened the Black Lives Matter organization to terrorism.

“They distort facts and outright lie, inflaming racial tensions, calling for violent mobs that burn and destroy and make a mockery of rule of law to bring about their dystopian vision of society: a far cry from the civil rights movement of Martin Luther King.”

Hughes did not cite specific evidence to back up that claim. He also decried any movement that calls for the defunding of the police.

Nome’s resolution does not include language to defund the local police. But instead it contains five specific items in support of various policing and public safety options, including a resolve to re-examine the Nome Police use of force policy. Another component calls for adequate funding for Nome police to have proper use of force and racial equity training.

Councilmember Jennifer Reader thinks this resolution provides accountability.

“It’s a reminder to our community, it’s a reminder to our citizens, [and] it’s a reminder to this council to stay on task.  And I don’t think that it’s trying to defund the police. We all know that this council has never had that conversation, ever. And I don’t think that that’s what our organization or our movement here wants. If anything, they’re asking for more help in that capacity.”

Kenny Hughes did come forward again during the second round of citizens’ comments to say he supports the five resolve items and appreciated the council’s effort to distinguish between the Black Lives Matter movement and the organization behind the movement.

Although Councilmember Mark Johnson originally expressed skepticism on whether the resolution was divisive, he ultimately joined the council by voting unanimously in favor of the resolution.

Image at Top: A collection of Nome citizens march in solidarity for Black Lives Matter. Photo from JoJo Phillips, KNOM. (2020)

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