Dunleavy calls George Floyd’s death “horrific,” thanks Alaskans for peaceful protests

About 250 people gathered for a public “I Can’t Breathe” rally protesting the death of a black man, George Floyd, who was killed after a white officer pressed a knee into his neck while taking him into custody in Minnesota. People held signs decrying violence against black people and calling out institutional racism, many supporting the Black Lives Matter movement on Saturday, May 30, 2020 in Juneau, Alaska. Similar protests happened throughout the state with hundreds turning out in Fairbanks and Anchorage, they’ve also erupted in dozens of cities all over the country. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/KTOO)

Gov. Mike Dunleavy described the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis as “horrific” in a news briefing on Wednesday, adding that he wanted to thank Alaskans for how they have conducted themselves in protests in the state. 

“People absolutely have the right to protest: This is America,” Dunleavy said. “What occurred in Minneapolis when Mr. Floyd was killed in that police action, we all know is terrible.”

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Dunleavy expressed concern that protests in Alaska could spread COVID-19, noting that any events that combine people being in close proximity with singing and shouting can spread the virus. He emphasized advice from state officials that people at gatherings wear face masks or stay at least six to 10 feet away from others.

“When we have protests or get together in Alaska, we want to just be cognizant of that, of each other,” Dunleavy said. “There’s no reason why you can’t have a protest and also think of others as you’re part of that.” 

Dunleavy praised how people have acted at the protests in the state. 

“I want to thank Alaskans, again, I can’t thank Alaskans enough,” he said. “The rest of the country — many parts of it have been roiled over this situation, in which (George Floyd) was killed — and the manner in which he was killed. I don’t think there’s anybody that can watch that video for very long — I couldn’t — and not turn away and say, ‘That was horrific. That’s hugely, hugely problematic.’”

The governor linked the response in the state to broader support for free speech. 

“We’re lucky here in Alaska. We have protests — we should be able to express ourselves. I’m proud of Alaskans that do. I’m proud of Alaskans that support free speech,” he said. “I’m proud of Alaskans who may not go to the get-togethers are still in support of our free speech.”

Dunleavy ended his remarks regarding the protests by saying that people should be careful “in whatever situation that we’re in — that we think of others, that we understand that the virus jumps from one person to the next.”

Andrew Kitchenman is the state government and politics reporter for Alaska Public Media and KTOO in Juneau. Reach him at akitchenman@alaskapublic.org.

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