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Black Lives Matter protesters take to wheels in downtown Las Vegas

Updated June 27, 2020 - 7:23 pm

More than 100 people in cars, on bikes, motorcycles, rollerblades and skateboards took part Saturday in a Black Lives Matter parade.

The parade, called “#BlackLivesMatter on Wheels” on the event’s Facebook page, began in front of the Clark County Government Center at 1 p.m. Organizer and Las Vegas activist Tia Coward, 23, said she wanted to provide people who were uncomfortable gathering at protests amid the coronavirus pandemic a chance to support the Black Lives Matter movement.

Among other calls to action, Coward said she wanted to advocate for excessive-force legislation and a “complete recall” of former Mayor Pro Tempore Michele Fiore, who made “racially charged” comments during a Republican convention earlier this month.

“It’s important that we keep showing out and showing that we’re not dying down so change will actually be made,” Coward said.

Music played from 52-year-old Las Vegas resident Leon Hall’s motorcycle as people gathered in the parking lot for the parade. Hall, an advocate against racism and injustice for over 30 years, said the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody stirred memories of similar experiences he has faced with police, which made him want to get more involved.

Hall, who noted he has attended any protest he could, said he particularly liked the idea of a “protest on wheels” so he could ride his motorcycle and show how the community is “united behind the demand for police reform.”

“Seeing all the young people working so hard to fight for change — it caused me to feel like I have to be a part of it, if nothing else, to support them,” Hall said.

Cars and people with other modes of transportation began the parade around 1:30 p.m., driving around for about 45 minutes, ending up at the Las Vegas police headquarters before heading back to the government center, honking and cheering along the way.

Best friends Aisha Butler, 45, and Valerie Bynan Ripamonti, 42, passed out stickers with a link to register to vote before the parade began. Ripanmonti said that while it is important for her to support Black Lives Matter, more immediate action can be taken through registering to vote to ensure everyone’s voice is heard in the November election.

It was Ripamonti’s first protest, she said, noting she felt more comfortable being in her car than in a large group of people with the risk of contracting the coronavirus.

“It’s enough already,” Ripamonti said. “It’s just time this country evolves into what it says it is.”

Shaylee Rolon, 29, decorated her car with rainbow steamers and messages including, “We the peaceful” and “End police brutality.” Rolon said that as a “proud” Latina and member of the LGBTQ+ community, the cause of Black Lives Matter and the ability to peacefully protest is very important to her.

“I don’t think there’s any pride for me until there’s liberation for all of us, so until that happens, I’ll keep standing with our community,” she said.

Contact Amanda Bradford at abradford@reviewjournal.com. Follow @amandabrad_uc on Twitter.

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