Not connected to Black Lives Matter, Sunday event will focus on local youths’ experience

  LYNDEN ­— The idea of a hometown March for Black Lives came from Amsa Burke, who will be a senior at Lynden High School in the fall. 

  “It’s about everyone versus racism, and we want the town to be unified. It’s not for attacking others,” Burke said of the group walk that will begin at Lynden High School at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 5.

  The march is planned to go down Grover Street to City Hall on Fourth Street and then on to Lynden police headquarters on 19th Street, a distance of almost three miles.

  At both stops there will be some speeches by Whatcom County young people — from Lynden, Blaine and Bellingham, at least — about what “others’ lives are like who are people of color,” said Burke, who is Black.

  She said the march is intended to be respectful and to not block any vehicle traffic as it moves along sidewalks. Burke said she is aware of a “counter” effort that has been mobilized out of concern about this march, but there is no intent to be confrontational, she said.

  An email sent to the Tribune from Claire Habig for what is called Young Activists of Whatcom County, a students’ group, says the march is “to promote education and awareness of people of color’s experiences and how as a community we can better ourselves in the future.”

  It’s a show of solidarity with people of color and “to raise awareness for racial inequality and stand for social justice.”

  This march and Young Activists of Whatcom County are not affiliated with any political groups or other organizations, including neither the Black Lives Matter Foundation nor Lynden High School or the Lynden School District, says the email from Habig, who has also been an LHS student.

  “All participants are asked to wear masks and maintain social distancing whenever possible in order to keep the community safe and slow the spread of COVID-19. This event is planned to be a strictly peaceful and informative march, and any acts of violence or aggression will not be tolerated,” the email states.

  Burke said response to the invitation to participate has grown daily, and she expects at least 100-200 to be in the march, and those participants could be from beyond Whatcom County. It was primarily she and friends who did the first planning, starting Sunday, June 28, she said.

  The march was characterized as a “Black Lives Matter Protest” in a Britslist online message posted June 29 welcoming all from throughout Whatcom County to attend.

  That was followed up by Wednesday, July 1, of red flyer notices around Lynden saying “We Need Your Help!! Protestors are coming to Lynden. ... Help us protect our town. Protect monuments, keep the peace.”

  Organizer Gary Small, speaking for this “Pro USA Freedom and Support Police” effort, says in an email  that a Lynden Freedom Rally will be in Centennial Park at Fourth and Grover streets at 1:30 p.m. Sunday before the March for Black Lives. American or Blue Lives Matter police-support flags are welcome, but no political signs.

  In his Thursday email, Small attaches a picture of a poster urging attendance at the march “indicating that Lynden is too white and too conservative and shows more support for the police than for ‘black lives.’ According to them, Lynden ‘has an immensely racist history.’”

  That characterization is accompanied by a 1926 photo of a gathering of Ku Klux Klan members in Lynden for a cross burning.

  The Ku Klux Klan had a resurgence widely in the 1920s. In Bellingham, after being rejected from the main Tulip Time Festival Parade of the day, Klanners did their own parade in the evening of May 15, 1926, through Bellingham streets after a picnic in Cornwall Park.