A World War II veteran recalled returning to Wyoming to signs “No Dogs or Indians Allowed” displayed in stores. On Tuesday evening in the Riverton City Council Chambers was a public event called by city officials for local businesses to raise concerns about shoplifting and disturbances caused by those intoxicated. One suggested that store owners post signs, “No loitering. No trespassing. No alcohol,” giving businesses the right to remove unwanted people.
While it was made clear by Mayor Tim Hancock that discrimination in serving anyone based on race or national origin is illegal, Native Americans know about the “No Indians” signs experienced by great grandparents, so that restrictive signs posted today easily could be interpreted as being directed towards Native Americans, whether or not the intention. The past matters in developing empathetic, respectful, and fair solutions.
Tuesday’s meeting drew a crowd of about 60, nearly all white. Comments generally were civil although tensions ran high at times and one store owner warned if the city failed to address the problem, she would take matters into her own hands. Some saw the need for increases in the numbers of police, pay for police, and punishment, none of which gets meaningful results and costs.
City officials hope that having given businesses an opportunity to be heard will relieve some of the tension. Not many spoke up, so it’s hard to get an accurate temperature. Not all espoused “lock ‘em up and throw away the key.” One noted that the solution is not to ask someone to “move on” without having a place to move to. Riverton has no place for unhoused people, especially if they are intoxicated. Another noted that we need solutions, not just complaints. Another noted that the causes of mental illness need to be address, not just symptoms.
The new chief of police, Eric Hurtado, informed us of his proposal for Civilian Service Officers (CSO) and showed video clips about how this alternative has been used in other communities. He had earlier discussed this with leaders of the Riverton Peace Mission (RPM) which we like. A CSO responds to help, not to make an arrest. Had a CSO responded to the call by Riverton Walmart regarding Anderson Antelope on September 21, 2019, Mr. Antelope would not have been killed by a police officer.
RPM wants community discussions for difficult conversations, Fear not. Be humble. Have faith.
Be bold. Build relationships. Do justice.
COMING SOON! Support RPM on WyoGives Day, July 12 th with an online donation at
www.WyoGives.org or send RPM a check to PO Box 255, Riverton WY 82501 noting “WyoGives” in the memo line. The goal is $10,000. Over $1,000 has already been pledged!