(Riverton, WY) Over 50 people were in attendance and participated in the “Never Again in Riverton” Candlelight Vigil on the evening of Wednesday, September 21 outside of Riverton City Hall.
The annual event was held in remembrance of the shooting of Anderson Antelope, Sr., who was shot and killed outside Walmart by a Riverton Police officer on September 21, 2019; this year’s event was to raise awareness and efforts by the Riverton Peace Mission that such incidents never happen again.
Present at the event were several members of the Antelope family, members of the Riverton Peace Mission Board of Directors; Nicole Wagon of Missing and Murdered Women/People (MMIW/P), Francis Blackburn of Civil Rights for Wind River, Eagle Drum, Mayor Richard Gard, and Riverton Police Chief Eric Murphy.
Nicole Wagon, Riverton Peace Mission board member and local leader of MMIW/P was the spokesperson for the event.
“We are here to remember and support all of our loved ones who have been victims of violence, whether at the hands of criminals, offenders…or law enforcement,” Wagon said. “This is about all unjustified shootings, not only about Andy Antelope but all incidents and cases that have gone unresolved.”
“Three years ago, I lost my brother,” said Lavina Bell, sister of Andy Antelope. “He was shot and killed in front of Walmart. I and my family right here…we still hurt to this day. I don’t think we’re ever going to heal from this. We all just don’t want any more violence, no more shootings…it caused too much heartache. This didn’t have to happen.”
“A lot of people say: ‘Where was the concern and his family when he got shot that day?’” Lavina continued. “We all loved him…gave him a home. But my brother, he decided to take to the streets. Alcohol is what he went for…and now my brother is six feet under because of this tragedy that happened. There’s going to be no justice for him…we tried our best to see what we could do, but can’t do anything. So now we are all hurt because of what happened. We just don’t want any more shootings. Takes a lot of lives…Native, African American, non-Native. There are a lot of shootings going on in this world, and we don’t want it anymore. So right now, I just want to thank you all for being here for my brother, and standing with my family here.”
Francis Blackburn, President of the Civil Rights for Wind River said that she sees a lot of injustice in the Federal system.
“Our people do not get legal representation as well as they should,” Blackburn said. “We have to go miles and miles away to see our people that are in jail in the Federal system. We don’t have the money for legal representation. I want to see justice across the board…in the city, the county, the state, Federal. That is what is near and dear to my heart. Just because we’re Native, doesn’t mean we deserve less.”
Mayor Richard Gard said that it is a collaboration between the Riverton community and Tribe, and that the answer comes back to personal responsibility. “We are in full support of helping the families in healing,” he said. “We are being proactive in holding these conversations, and we’re holding monthly meetings with these organizations in the hopes of accomplishing something. But it takes effort on the part of all individuals as well, to improve these relationships. It is a joint effort.”
Chesie Lee, Co-Chair of the Riverton Peace Mission said that she hopes the “Never Again in Riverton” Candlelight Vigil at City Hall would move the community closer to healing.
“How those in power tried in the past to move on…without acknowledging the harm caused and were not held accountable…escalated fear,” she said. “There’s a chance to transform that fear into understanding through events like last night.”
Lee went on to say that the Riverton Peace Mission will continue to ask the Riverton City Council, through their petition and meetings with city officials, to establish a Solutions Committee, to collect data, train staff and officials, and allocate resources that will address racism in policing practices and other policies.
“Change will not happen overnight,” she said, “but we must move in that direction before like what happened September 21, 2019 happens again.”
The Riverton Peace Mission shared they would like to thank the Antelope family, Allison Sage and Eagle Drum, Tina Jayroe with Justice4Andy.org, the City of Riverton, and the volunteers who helped and contributed to making the event possible.
For more information about the Riverton Peace Mission, visit: rivertonpeacemission.org
For more information about the Civil Rights for Wind River, visit their Facebook page.