Peaceful demonstration in Rhinelander to ‘show solidarity’
Story and Photos by Eileen Persike
More than 100 people gathered at the Oneida County Courthouse Monday evening carrying signs showing support for George Floyd, the Minnesota man who was killed last week during an arrest attempt by Minneapolis police officers, and calling for an end to racism and violence against African Americans.
The event – not called a protest – was loosely organized on the Oneida County Democratic Party Facebook discussion group with a comment written Sunday asking whether anyone wants to “show solidarity in Downtown Rhinelander.” The event, it was noted, “will be entirely peaceful. Vandalism and violence will not be tolerated.”
According to worldpopulationreview.com, Rhinelander’s population is more than 90% white, with less than 2% black or African American. A similar demographic was represented at the gathering.
“As a white person I feel it’s very important that we use our privilege to speak out about minorities that have never been equal since they’ve been in this country,” said Kathryn Borski of Rhinelander. “I think it’s time that we change that and this is the perfect time to do it.”
One of the attendees, a nurse in the area, said that police should be more like nurses and treat everyone the same.
“No racism, no bias, nothing; you treat all colors the same as far as arrest go, just like a nurse would treat anyone who comes into the ER,” said Lisa Zarda, adding, “I can’t preach to my kids about equality and then not show up. I think it’s amazing this is happening in a county that isn’t very diverse.”
Rekha Jariwala said showing solidarity with others is the right thing to do.
“This has to stop,” Jariwala said. “It’s been so long that people have been silent and it’s gotten to this point where we can’t take it anymore.”
“I just believe in standing up for human rights. It’s important that we make a difference,” said Nicole Baker.
“I think that everything that’s happening is very wrong and this is the best way that I can think to be a part of fighting racism,” Stephan George said.
Others took a historical perspective on the unrest of the past week.
“I’m very heartbroken over the hundreds of years of the political and social oppression that black people have been put under,” said Emma Hjelle. “I recognize that our country was founded on black slavery and we continue to allow black oppression to happen because it’s built that way and it’s time I do something about it.”
The demonstration took place from 6-7 p.m. No incidents were reported.