More than 70 people gathered at the Pinedale
Courthouse lawn on June 4 to demonstrate against the death
of George Floyd, an African American who died while being
arrested by Minneapolis police officers on May 25.
Excitement and anticipation heightened the mood as people
prepared signs and donned facemasks.
Across the street, tension and suspicion radiated from
about a dozen people sporting American flags, mostly men
and mostly armed, who stood silently to watch for any sign of
trouble. Pinedale resident and veteran Michael Edison called
them the “Pinedale Patriot Group.”
In between the two groups that looked to be facing a
standoff, Edison, a veteran, patriotically dressed and carrying a
tall American flag, rode his Arab mare back and forth to check
on people’s moods and conversations.
Edison described the group as a “counter protest” and
“guardians for our community” to respond if the courthouse
lawn rally turned violent. The Pinedale Patriot Group was not
affiliated with any national organization.
Other than isolated verbal exchanges, the rallies remained
peaceful. No injuries, looting or property destruction took
place during the two hours the groups gathered. The Sublette
County Sheriff’s Office maintained a presence and did not
A college student home in Pinedale, Jamie Rellstab wanted
to organize an event in Floyd’s memory. Friends with the
Robert Galbreath photo
Michael Edison of Pinedale rides between
demonstrators and counter demonstrators on
Thursday, June 4.
Joy Ufford photo
Counter-protesters from left, Tristan, John, a man who wouldn’t give his name, Fisher Vance, Bang Johnson, Dustin, Joseph Madsen, Steven Smith and Robert
Binning stand together on the west side of Pine Street.
Joy Ufford photo
Organizer Jamie Rellstab of Pinedale prepares to put up lists of names of black people killed in police actions.
Women’s Advocacy Group and others urged her to consider a
peaceful protest on behalf of Black Lives Matter.
Wyoming Advocacy Group member Genavieve White
distributed her pamphlets titled “How to be an Ally,” for white
people who want to voice their own anger at police violence
against blacks and other nonwhites.
“Remember that this is not about you,” it begins. “You do
not know what it’s like to be black; no experience you’ve had
can compare. Black people are not required to educate you. …
Raising up black lives changes how the country approaches
human dignity. Elevating the lowest treated groups elevates
Rellstab planned the event to be a “peaceful and educational”
show of solidarity with other nonviolent protests across the
country demanding justice and reform in the wake of Floyd’s
“I wanted to be out here in support with the rest of the
nation and people of color … and show them that Pinedale is
in this with them,” she added.
Rellstab consulted with “people that participated in previous
marches and some people of color in Pinedale” to organize the
“Look at this huge turnout,” she said. “That shows that
people here care. I don’t think a lot of voices are being heard
so people are out here and making a change. That’s really all
During the rally, Rellstab thanked people for coming and
read a prayer written by The Rev. Melinda Bobo, Rector at St.
Andrew’s in the Pines Episcopal Church in Pinedale.
Several demonstrators discussed the factors
that led them to participate in the rally.
“Our lives matter when we share who we
are and that we care about our communities,”
said Jami Anderson, of Pinedale. “I agree that
white silence equals white violence. I need to
“I think it’s important that racism be
acknowledged in the United States – that is
the way we can hit it head on and start to
make change,” said Joni Mack, of Pinedale.
“It needs to be from every person in this
country to eliminate racism, all the way to the
government. We need to see some action.”
Kathy Sandmeier, of Boulder, said Floyd’s
death hit close to home.
“I’m here in support of Black Lives
Matter,” she explained. “I’ve got family
members that are African American and it’s
really important to me that all my nieces and
nephews grow up to have a socially just and
equal world to live in.”
Casey Key, of Pinedale, stood on the
edge of the sidewalk, holding a sign with
the words, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to
I’m 21 years old and I grew up in
Pinedale,” he said. “As a person of color, I
believe it’s important to stand together with
our brothers to remember the lives that we
have lost and to try and enact change so that
this does not happen again. I believe there
shouldn’t be murder without repercussion.”
Around two dozen individuals gathered
to hear Edison’s message. He opened with
a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance.
Edison stated that he respected the other
demonstrator’s rights to free speech, but
emphasized the need to prevent violence
and property damage that accompanied
demonstrations in some cities.
“We’re here to make sure that this doesn’t
devolve into anything that we’ve seen across
the country,” he said.
Edison stated that many of the
demonstrators on the courthouse lawn were
“This area’s one of the least racist places
I have ever lived,” he said. “My question to
them is why are (the demonstrators) here.”
Several people approached Edison,
accusing him of being a racist, he said. He
related stories about hiding Zimbabwean
refugees during the last decade of white rule
in South Africa.
“Black lives do matter,” he said. “I risked
my life to save those black lives. There’s no
argument as far as George Floyd goes. We all
agree those were bad times. But I don’t know
why they’re here.”
Pinedale resident Bill Johnson waved a
large American flag in front of the courthouse.
“We’re going to start standing up for the
Trump side of things, the good side of things,”
he said. “This has gone on long enough. It’s
out of hand. New York City is in turmoil
again. It’s terrible and we’ve got to stop it.”
Across the street, a man from Boulder
wishing to be identified as “just Phillip” held
up his American flag.
“I don’t think that just black lives matter,” he
said. “I think all lives matter. I think Black Lives
Matter in its name is inherently racist because
it’s calling out a single race, not all races.”
Among the men standing on Pine and N.
Fremont streets, automatic rifles at their side,
was Stephen Smith, of Boulder, who stated he
showed up armed “to protect my community.”
“We’re not going to be unchallenged,” he
added. “Keep our society free and peaceful.
Don’t destroy our town over something you
see on TV. Everyone has a right to protest
peacefully, but you don’t have a right to riot
“Sometimes you’ve got to practice one
right to defend all your other rights,” said
Joseph Madsen, of Daniel.
Pinedale graduate Liam Fallon walked
along the Mill Street sidewalk on the
courthouse side, engaging people in
conversation about Black Lives Matter and
police violence against blacks.
One person who questioned him about the
peaceful protest was Bob Dexter, who said
he feared a protest on behalf of Black Lives
Matter could draw negative attention to his
multiracial family that has found nothing but
acceptance in Pinedale.
“My problem is you say (on Facebook)
Pinedale needs fixing,” Dexter told Fallon.
“When you post something like that you stir
up a bunch of crap here – who does it come
He agreed that the killing of George Floyd
by a policeman “was wrong.”
Dexter continued, “You bring a group
like Black Lives Matter, which I consider to
be a terrorist group. … When you adopt that
symbol, you get the baggage that comes with
Fallon said, “Black Lives Matter is not
an organization. It’s a movement. There’s a
difference. And if we don’t do something to
solve this (police brutality) how can we call
Dexter continued to watch and listen
from a corner of the lawn. Later, an angry
man identified as “Steve” walked up and
immediately accosted Fallon, Dexter and
Marine and Rev. Randy Belton, who is
black. They tried to reason with Steve,
who screamed threats and obscenities that
included calling everyone on the lawn “total
Edison rode over and moved the angry
man away as he threatened to post everyone’s
pictures on Facebook.
John, “Bang” Johnson and others, on
their guard and alert, admitted the event was
peaceful but watched for anything that might
change that. When asked if they wanted to
intimidate by wearing weapons in a setting
that looked like a standoff, they shrugged.
That night, their goal was to keep the
peace, Johnson said. “I don’t have a problem
with it; I’m making sure it doesn’t turn into
a riot. I promise it will not be this side that
As the rally ended and the armed men
watched from across the street, Jamie Rellstab
was thrilled with how the evening turned out
as the group gathered its signs and posters.
“I knew the people here were going to be
peaceful,” she said. “I wanted a discussion.
Some people were able to have those
discussions and I’m really proud of that.”
Standing with the patriots, Steve ducked
out and yelled, “Pick up your trash!”
“We are,” said her brother and co-organizer
And with that, the grassroots rally cleared
away, the men across the street staying until