K2Radio News reached out to the Casper Police Department with the concerns of these protesters.

 

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A group unaffiliated with the two protests earlier Wednesday over the death of Minnesota resident George Floyd last week had a more pointed message later that afternoon at Veterans Park on East Second Street just east of downtown.

"I do want to highlight the atrocities done nationwide and in our home from police," organizer O'Shea Abeyta said. "I've been a victim of police brutality."

Abeyta  was joined by friends and family members including some who claim to have been wronged by the police, he said.

Some of them were disappointed in slow police responses -- upwards of a day -- when they've reported crimes such as burglaries and domestic violence, Abeyta said.

"Specifically, we're protesting how we feel like the police don't help us when we need them to," he said.

Abeyta is a thrice-convicted felon and doesn't shy away from admitting his mistakes, he said.

But Abeyta added that those convictions partially were a result of racial profiling because he's Native American, he said.

Likewise, he wanted to highlight problems with the police department including shootings of people in the past few years, he said.

Abeyta complimented Police Chief Keith McPheeters for the progress he's encouraged in the two-and-a-half years he's been in Casper.

"For instance, this morning at the rally this morning he spoke about how he's encouraging the police to take part in these protests and understand us because he understands the outrage that's going on right now in this country," Abeyta said.

But McPheeters has inherited generations of mistrust between the police and the community and that will take a lot of work, he said. "I don't know a lot of people who feel safe when the cops show up in Casper."

Constructive interactions between police and residents such as cops playing basketball with kids should not be seen as unusual, Abeyta said.

They avoided the noon event because he wasn't sure what the agenda was, because of rumors of out-of-town agitators showing up, and he didn't want to be associated with that, he said.

So that's why they gathered at Veterans Park, where they were joined and supported by a veteran.

"I talked to these young people earlier, and we're here to protect our monuments to our brothers and sisters that have died," Tony Olivas said. Instances of vandalism have occurred at monuments including the National World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C., in the wake of protests and riots.

"These people died so these kids can do what they're doing," Olivas said.

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