By Melinda Munson

Organizers of Skagway’s June 1 vigil, Cameron Brockett and Megan McGrail, haven’t watched the video of George Floyd’s death. 

“I didn’t need to see it to know that it was such an injustice and such a horrendous act,” McGrail said. 

Following George Floyd’s death on May 25, pictures and video circulated of Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds, even after Floyd said he couldn’t breathe and lost consciousness. According to The New York Times, Chauvin remained on top of Floyd a full minute after paramedics arrived.

A deli employee called police because he suspected a $20 bill Floyd used to pay for cigarettes was counterfeit. Four officers responded. Floyd, a black man, was not armed and did not appear to resist arrest. His death, following a multitude of other African American deaths at the hands of police, sparked nationwide protests and rioting. 

Chauvin was charged with murder and manslaughter, the other three officers are still under investigation.

Minneaplois might feel far from Skagway, an Alaska town of roughly 1,000 year-round residents, most of whom are white. Still, Brockett and McGrail felt compelled to act.

“I have grown up around Alaska and Southeast Alaska, racism really affects people in this state … We set records 

(for violence against minorities),” Brockett said.

Brockett and McGrail chose to organize their Black Lives Matter event as a silent vigil.

“We didn’t want to alienate folks if we were going to march. We wanted to dip our toes in the water,” McGrail said. Over 100 Skagwegians attended the rally, some were families with small children.

Also in attendance was Ray Leggett, Skagway police chief. When asked if he was there as police chief or in a personal capacity, Leggett responded, “I don’t know whether there’s a way to separate that.”

Leggett didn’t want to comment on how police officers in the Lower 48 are handling the protests and riots but he had thoughts to share about Skagway’s police department.

“I do not tolerate any type of descrimination or abuse. That’s not what this job is about. It never has been,” he said.

“I support people when they want to speak out about that (racism and violence). I don’t think we should sit idly by.”

Brockett and McGrail plan to continue their activism with a possible future march. They promote donating to organizations and people directly affected by racism and violence. Brockett recommends seeking out minority voices on Twitter, where she feels meaningful conversations are occurring, something she’s not seeing on Facebook or Instagram. 

“Black lives matter. Indiginous lives matter. It’s hard work to be doing but we have to be practicing anti-racism every day, especially in Alaska,” Brockett said.

Photo by Melinda Munson


Photo by Melinda Munson


Photo by Melinda Munson


Photo by Reba Hylton

Photo by Reba Hylton