I am writing today to let the people of Homer know about what it was like to try and participate in the unofficial Fourth of July parade while expressing an opinion not deemed worthy by its organizers. Those of you who witnessed this event saw a lot of cars, trucks and motorcycles flying American flags. Some of those vehicles also flew other symbols, such as Trump flags or Confederate flags. And one vehicle, in addition to flying high the flags of our great nation and our great state, had a banner bearing three simple words: Black Lives Matter.
For this, we were told we would not be permitted to participate in the event. The event’s organizer, Matthew Mitchell, who lives between Homer and Anchor Point, and two other men who did not identify themselves approached us and told us we could either remove the banner or leave. This was expressed as a command, not a request.
Let that sink in. This was an event billed as being about freedom of expression and being allowed to express ourselves as guaranteed by our beloved Constitution, and this man and his friends decided we had chosen to express our patriotism in the wrong manner and therefore he could bar us from driving down the streets of Homer.
We live here, this man does not, but because we brought the “wrong” message we were to be barred from driving down the street at the same time as him and the other people he deemed worthy to do so. We informed this gentleman that as his event was not sponsored by any coherent organization and had no permits or anything else, he had no authority to dictate who participated and who did not. He was not willing to accept this and stated that he had “already talked to the police,” apparently meaning to imply that our police department was on his side and would assist him in stopping us.
We let him know we didn’t think that was the case, told him we were participating no matter what he said or did, wished him a happy Fourth of July, and asked him to please back away from the vehicle as he was much closer than 6 feet, and was not wearing a mask. He declined to do so and continued to order us to either remove the banner or leave.
At around this time one of the other gentlemen with him lost his composure and began hurling verbal abuse at us, calling us communists and traitors, saying that this “isn’t our country” and some other things that I’m sure the paper would not want to print. We also asked this gentleman to please leave us alone, but he continued to hurl verbal abuse and eventually threats of violence for another few minutes. If we hadn’t had flagpoles sticking out the windows we would’ve closed them so we weren’t subject to his incoherent rage. Before the parade started, he drove by again with a woman who made an obscene gesture at us and called us communists again.
A few minutes later we observed that these same gentlemen were circulating amongst the other participants and talking to them. It seems they were not warning anyone else not to express their opinion. When things finally got started, we waited our turn in our place, but several vehicles behind us suddenly started to try and go around us and block us. I elected to simply go in the opposite lane with the rest of them and not allow my vehicle to be blocked out.
We participated in the parade with everyone else, and had a great time. Many people in town and on the Spit seemed very receptive to our message that we love our country, and we also think Black lives matter. These are not incompatible positions by any means. I’m sure most observers understood this, and it’s sad the organizers of this supposed celebration of freedom did not, while having no problem with a Confederate flag, a symbol of white supremacy, displayed at the same event.
Chris Fischer and Joey Lothian are both proud residents of Homer Alaska, USA.