Black Lives Matter demonstration draws conflicting groups in Brainerd

A vigil organized by Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace drew both supporters and critics Monday, July 6, to the corner of Sixth and Washington streets in Brainerd.

Several people hold signs as traffic passes by during a Brainerd Area Coalition For Peace Black Lives Matter vigil Monday, July 6, at the corner of South Sixth and Washington streets in Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

If Monday’s gathering in Brainerd is any indication, Black Lives Matter demonstrations are losing little momentum as the calendar flips from June to July — more than a month since the May 25 death of George Floyd that sparked protests and unrest in all 50 states and across the globe.

In Brainerd, more than 50 demonstrators gathered at 5:30 p.m., Monday, July 6, at the intersection of Washington and Sixth streets, hoisting signs that advocated for racial equality, equal justice under the law and a shared sense of humanity that crosses barriers of color — a demonstration that, in many respects, mirrored a prior demonstration at the same location on May 28.

The event was sponsored by the Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace, which also planned to host a meeting in Gregory Park later that evening.


Unlike the May 28 gathering, this protest featured a counter-demonstration from 10-15 people largely clustered on the south side of the interaction, many of whom carried flags bearing the stars and stripes, as well as blue Trump 2020 campaign banners and “All Lives Matter” signs.

Black Lives Matter

For Davonn Epps, a woman of color, and her friend Brittany Egan — both Brainerd residents who attended the May 28 demonstration — Monday’s event was encouraging. She said the assembly of people was a sign that protests in late May and early June weren’t a passing fad, but represent a real push for positive change.

“It's not a trend anymore, it's an actual movement that's been consistent for this whole month,” Epps said. “It's beautiful to see people are still caring about Black Lives Matter instead of just posting something, then giving the problem a blind eye.”

Sarah (left), Camryn and Hudson Good hold their signs Monday, July 6, during the Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace Black Lives Matter vigil at the corner of South Sixth and Washington streets in Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“I don't want my kids and my grandkids having to fight for the things I've had to fight for, definitely after the civil rights movement like we're still fighting,” Epps later said.

In turn, Egan expressed hope that real, substantive change is on the horizon, even in the little ways that law enforcement can become more fair and humane in their interactions with people of color.

“My biggest fear was that when it comes time for change, it's gonna be the same thing happening and nothing's gonna change,” Egan said. “My hope is, is that — by people still protesting — at the very least that when an officer sees that, they think twice before they act on impulse, that's at least something that crosses their mind.”


Brittany Egan (left), Jennifer Keck and Emma Needham hold their signs Monday, July 6, during a Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace Black Lives Matter vigil at the corner of South Sixth and Washington streets in Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

In the perspective of Marianne Milloy, formerly of Brainerd, she said the recent iteration of Black Lives Matter has shed a light on police brutality and racism — whether it echoed her own experience as a mother to a Black son, or opened her eyes to racist aspects of American history. She said the issue of dismantling statues and monuments across the country served as a point where she learned of many racial atrocities committed by revered historical figures and American Founding Fathers.

With that in mind, Milloy said she has hope this will represent a turn for the better.

“This is great,” Milloy said. “I have a really good feeling that our country is going to change and be what we thought it was and what we want it to be.”

All Lives Matter

Not all who showed up for the gathering on Washington and Sixth streets were in favor of Black Lives Matter, with some denouncing the gathering as misguided, divisive and ungrateful.

Hank Mullen of Nisswa said the Black Lives Matter movement ignores the detrimental effects of Black on Black crime and noted 19 of the nation’s top 20 cities for racial violence are governed by Democrats.


Greg Spaid waves and holds a sign across the street from the Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace Black Lives Matter vigil Monday, July 6. The group expressed their views on the south side of Washington Street during the vigil. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“I'm just sick and tired of everything that's going on,” Mullen said. “All the other cities where they're murdering Blacks ... if they really cared about the Black people, they would have the law enforcement in there and clean it up, and they could do it in about a week.”

Mullen said the protesters would abandon Black Lives Matter if they knew what it actually stood for and blamed a sissified culture of participation trophies and ungratefulness for civil unrest among younger people across the country.

“These people have never had an opportunity to have it hard. They've been given everything,” Mullen said. “They've been given anything, everything to them their whole life. When they were young, they always got a trophy. They've never had any hardships. And if they hate it so bad here, why don't they go to a country that they like better?”

Dave Brabern, a resident of Brainerd, said he respected the First Amendment rights of Black Lives Matter protesters, but criticized the movement as, in his perspective, radical, insular, divisive and lacking common sense. As someone who grew up in the ‘80s, Brabern said it was not only a time when he enjoyed Black artists like Run DMC and Sir Mix-a-Lot, but also a time when people were able to live in solidarity and security with one another.

Troy Thompson holds an American flag from the bed of a pickup truck Monday, July 6, across the street from a Brainerd Area Coalition for Peace Black Lives Matter vigil at the corner of South Sixth and Washington streets in Brainerd. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

“I'm real tired about what's going on in this country,” Brabern said. “We got a bunch of leftist Marxist people coming in. I don't think that they're getting the whole picture. I think every human being on this planet has a purpose — everybody, all lives, not one specific group. … I think it's time for us to stand up as Americans and go back to what I remember growing up.”


Down the line, Gabriella Miller said she’s experienced racism firsthand in Brainerd, but not the kind that Black Lives Matter may acknowledge — namely, racism perpetuated on whites by Black people. Differences of opinion have to be accepted across society, she noted, but there also has to be respect for the nation and American institutions.

“They hate us for no reason. I grew up with a different point of view because of these specific different people,” Miller said. “I'm a Trump supporter and yes some of the things going on in America are not great. I understand that, but we also need to think about — I see all of these videos going around online of people, burning the American flag. People have died for our freedom and that’s not OK.”

GABRIEL LAGARDE may be reached at or 218-855-5859. Follow at .

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