Local man sparks Black Lives Matter movement in Jeff Co

Posted 6/11/20

It took one split-second decision for Port Townsend resident Sean Vinson to start a movement.

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Local man sparks Black Lives Matter movement in Jeff Co


It took one split-second decision for Port Townsend resident Sean Vinson to start a movement.

“I had literally been fighting on Facebook all week with people about George Floyd,” he said. “And I just got tired. I didn’t want to sit around and do nothing.”

So Vinson made his own post, inviting anyone to stand out on the street in front of McDonald’s next to him with a sign protesting the death of Floyd, a Black man killed by police in Minneapolis.

“I see other people protesting out here all the time,” he said. So why not him?

One day after posting on Facebook, Vinson was joined by more than 100 people at the protest, holding signs and chanting “Black Lives Matter.” 

He was surprised by the turnout, but he also knew he didn’t want to stop there.

His protest was the first of several other community protests — although not organized by Vinson — in which hundreds of Jefferson County residents have hit the streets to protest police brutality and racism.

Vinson is now launching his own grassroots Black Lives Matter movement in Jefferson County with the goal of promoting racial justice, equality, and ending police brutality. He hopes one day law enforcement officers in Jefferson County will no longer carry guns. 

He wasn’t expecting his movement to take off so quickly. In less than a week, more than 500 people have begun following his Facebook page.

“For someone who’s just been a local community member for so long, I’ve just been a person in town,” he said. “Now all these important town people are coming up and introducing themselves to me. I’m still getting used to it.”

The Black Lives Matter movement was founded in 2013 in response to the acquittal of the man who shot and killed teenager Trayvon Martin in Florida.

It is a global organization where chapters work to create a world in which Black people are no longer targeted, and killed, by police.

The closest official Black Lives Matter chapter is in Vancouver, BC. Vinson hopes his movement in Jefferson County will eventually become an official chapter.

Right now, Vinson is working with a group of volunteers to organize a Facebook page, a website, and to start planning their next event: a rally on June 19 to celebrate “Freedom Day,”  or “Juneteenth,” which commemorates June 19, 1865, when the Emancipation Proclamation was read to formerly enslaved people in Texas.

It’s going to take a lot of organizational work to become an official chapter, Vinson said.

For now, he hopes to spark an unofficial grassroots movement that holds rallies, raises money, and calls out injustices when they occur in Jefferson County.



In the week following the protest, Vinson has been interviewed on the radio, spoken with the mayor, met the Port Townsend police chief, and started to reach out to supporters to join his movement.

But he’s also received a hefty amount of backlash, including a letter threatening his life.

“I received a very real death threat,” he said. “Once it hit me, I was on an adrenaline wave trying to process it for hours.”

While Vinson gave the letter to the police, he also recognized that as a Black man in Jefferson County, going to the police for help is not his normal reaction.

“I don’t know if I should call the police,” he said. “I don’t know if they’re going to be on my side. … For Black people that’s a question, ‘Will they protect me?’”

Like many other Black people in America, Vinson has myriad stories of feeling threatened and baited by police officers.

In Jefferson County, he said people of color often feel invisible because the majority of residents are white. That’s why it’s important for him to bring a global movement like the Black Lives Matter movement to a small, rural community.

“Saying it’s such a white county is true, but it’s also harmful to us because we do exist here,” he said. “People treat us like we’re just exotic.”

That is the reason Vinson wants to be out on the street protesting and rallying against police brutality.

“I’m not scared anymore,” he said. “A lot of people don’t realize how deep the racism runs in Jefferson County. And if they do, they stay ignorant to it. I’m done being scared of the white community here. I’m not silent anymore.”