Mitch Gayns moved to Winthrop two years ago and identifies as Black, biracial and multiracial. On Oct. 6, he called into a meeting of Town Council to urge against “making space for people with bigoted, racist points of view.”
Gayns was referring to a pro-Trump group from out of town that has held weekly rallies in front of Town Hall the past few months. When we reached out to him, he reported that he was actually in the process of moving. Here, he answers questions about his decision.
Q: How do you feel when you see these demonstrators at Town Hall?
A: What really doesn’t sit right with me is supporters from our town who come out [to demonstrate.] As someone who grew up in other very white places, you always have this underlying nervousness that these “good” white people you know might be racist. It’s one thing to have that underlying worry. You can brush it off as paranoia. But when every Thursday you see your neighbors support police brutality, it removes all doubt.
Q: Do these rallies have anything to do with your decision to move?
A: Not the ones in Winthrop especially. I was quarantining just outside the Twin Cities when George Floyd was murdered and that certainly influenced my decision to move to a more diverse community. I was pretty active in the protests there. It felt really deflating to come home to “We Support Our Local Police” signs after all the work we’d done there. So I sought out a blacker city in hopes of feeling a bit more comfortable with where I call home.
Q: What does the “We Support Our Local Police” message mean to you personally?
A: This message comes across as direct and intentional intimidation, a sign that the homeowner supports police violence against black lives. A sign that tells me if I were being beaten in the street outside your home, you’d simply close the blinds and buy the cops a dinner for their ‘trouble’.
Q: Talk about your interactions with law enforcement since moving here.
A: I’ve lived most of my adult life on the North Shore and being randomly stopped, pulled over, questioned and followed by police was, and is, a part of life. I’ve been followed home to Winthrop numerous times both by state and local police.
Q: Someone commented on our Oct. 15 piece about the demonstrations, asking, “Why all of a sudden do no other ethnicity’s lives matter?” How would you respond to that?
A: Saying that “Black Lives Matter” does not in any way, shape, or form express that your non-black life does not matter. Period.
Q: Is there anything about Winthrop that you will miss?
A: Oh, for sure! I loved many parts of living in Winthrop! I’ll miss Twist & Shake and Jac’s Café and I’ll likely drive back now and then for both of those. Other than that, the ocean, of course.
Read the other interviews in this series:
Let’s Talk about Race: A Conversation with Town Manager Austin Faison
Let’s Talk about Race: A Conversation with Town Manager Austin Faison – Part II
Let’s Talk about Race: A Conversation with Town Manager Austin Faison – Part III
Let’s Talk about Race: A Conversation with Town Manager Austin Faison – Part IV