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Chesie's Journal: Can A Backdoor Approach Help?

Riverton Peace Mission board members met with the new Riverton City Administrator Kyle Butterfield, Mayor Richard Gard, and Councilman Mike Baily last Tuesday. We learned good news and gained hope but must still work for the change we want.

Good news learned is that James Donahue no longer works for the City of Riverton. Donahue is the police officer who killed Andy Antelope at Walmart on September 21, 2019. Regrettably, Donahue was never held accountable and later promoted to detective. His no longer being in law enforcement in Fremont County was a request of the Justice4Andy campaign.

Tuesday’s meeting was at the invitation of the new City Administrator as suggested by Councilman Mike Baily. The Riverton Peace Mission spoke at the two prior City Council meetings, July 18 where no response was made and August 2 where council responses were cloaked in denial and refusal to take responsibility and later in the evening selected a new city administrator in closed session without Native input as had been requested.

If we had not spoken up, there would have been no meeting on Tuesday where we agreed that problems are fixable. We plan to meet again September 7th. But we are far from achieving what we request in the petition – a committee, collection of data, training, and resources dedicated to eliminating systemic racism in Riverton.

A concern raised during the meeting could provide a backdoor approach. The mayor mentioned the 1,726 outstanding arrest warrants for failure to pay fines. (I wrote about this last week.) With 80% of the warrants being against Native Americans, I view this as systemic racism. The mayor sees it as a failure of taking personal responsibility. But we agreed that fining people for alcohol related offenses without their ability to pay the fines benefits no one. At our next meeting, we will explore alternatives. Will this backdoor approach work to begin addressing racism? Maybe.

In the meantime, don’t forget to sign the petition! Thanks to the 75 who have signed asking the Riverton City Council to address racism. Ask your family and friends to sign it, too!

Fear not. Be humble. Have faith. Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice.

Chesie Lee

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