Fundraiser Launched After ‘I Can’t Breathe’ Billboard Vandalized

Kalispell City Councilor Sid Daoud organized fundraiser to compensate for damage while raising more money to support Black Lives Matter movement

By Maggie Dresser
A large billboard with the words “I Can’t Breathe” as seen along U.S. Hwy 93 in southern Kalispell on June 30, 2020. The words are among the last said by George Floyd, a black man who died after a police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes in Minneapolis in May. Floyd’s death sparked nationwide protests for racial justice and police reform. Hunter D’Antuono | Flathead Beacon

In fewer than 48 hours after a Black Lives Matter billboard appeared on U.S. Highway 93 in South Kalispell at the end of June, it had already been vandalized with white paint.

A local college student organized a fundraiser for the billboard, which reads, “I Can’t Breathe,” reflecting the Black Lives Matter movement following the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis.

“When I heard about this, I was upset that, first off, the hard work that this young man put into (the billboard) was ruined by somebody and it was also a company that operates in our area was vandalized as well,” said Sid Daoud, a Kalispell resident and city councilor.

In response to the vandalism, Daoud set up his own GoFundMe fundraiser to replace the billboard’s vinyl, which was damaged by the paint, to compensate the local billboard owner. The fundraiser originally requested $930, which Daoud says was met in an hour and half and prompted him to raise more funds for purchasing additional billboard ads around Kalispell, or potentially organizing other Black Lives Matters events or messages.

Daoud plans to meet with both the student who organized the original billboard and the two Kalispell students who organized the peaceful June 6 Black Lives Matter protest, which took place at Depot Park in Kalispell, to brainstorm where the funds should specifically be directed.

“I’m standing up in favor of First Amendment rights and the rights of local businesses not to be vandalized for any political purpose,” Daoud said. “I personally support the Black Lives Matter movement, my wife and three children are black and that resonates with me big time.”

Along with the billboard damage, white paint also splashed onto the property where it sits, which the company leases from a local landowner. In addition to the racist sentiment, Daoud was also upset by the private property damage of both the local business and landowner.

As of July 1, Daoud’s fundraiser reached $6,545 from 161 donors and was shared more than 2,000 times.

“I don’t know what the outcome of this is going to be,” Daoud said. “I sure support it if anybody wants to raise money and put up signage and do an event, and if it’s peaceful, I’m 100% behind them … I just think it’s terrible the word around town. A lot of people were happy it was vandalized.”

“We want to have a culture of mutual respect here even if we don’t have the same political ideas,” Daoud added.

Daoud clarifies that while he is a Kalispell city councilor, he organized the fundraiser on his own and that it has no affiliation with the city.

maggie@flatheadbeacon.com

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