Charles City vigil remembers Minneapolis man, makes statement on injustice, inequality
By Bob Steenson, firstname.lastname@example.org
About 100 people showed up at Central Park in Charles City Friday evening in memory of a Minneapolis man who died while in police custody, and to make a statement against racial injustice and inequality.
The candlelight vigil included prayers, a few remarks and an excruciatingly long 8 minutes and 46 seconds of silence, vividly showing the length of time that a police officer had his knee on the back of George Floyd’s neck as the handcuffed Floyd died.
Most of the people who showed up stayed for an hour or longer, having conversations with people they knew and some they were meeting for the first time.
Mayor Dean Andrews emphasized a phrase that he has been repeating all week: that proximity promotes empathy, meaning that being around someone and getting to know them makes it easier to understand them and relate to them.
“I’m hoping that this can kind of be the thing that leads to actually having those conversations so everybody can feel when they go out at night that they don’t have to worry, that this is Charles City, I’m safe here,” Andrews said.
Bethany Linde, of Charles City, said she attended the event because she wanted people to know that even in a small town in the middle of rural Iowa, people recognize injustice.
“Even if we aren’t the ones seeing it, that doesn’t mean we don’t know that it’s happening,” she said. “I support police completely, but I absolutely think there needs to be a change.”
Corey Wibb, from Chicago, said, “It’s only right that we came out, for what’s going on everywhere, across the globe. If you’re not protesting, to stand up for what’s really going on, you’re really not for equality, you know what I’m saying? It’s been going on enough that everybody knows it.”
Also attending the event in uniform were Chief Hugh Anderson of the Charles City Police Department, Officer Lenny Luft and Floyd County Sheriff Jeff Crooks.
Anderson and Luft were helping distribute candles and bottled water to any who needed them.
Allison Vrchoticky, of Charles City, said she came to the park “because black lives matter, to try and support it.” She said the crowd could have been bigger for the size of Charles City.
Brittney Vrchoticky, of Charles City, said, “We just want to be out here and stand up to show our support for those who can’t.”
Ryan Parker, age 21, of Charles City, said he was in the park “because the statistics don’t lie.”
“The systemic racism in our country disproportionately affects black people by a wide margin, and the other minority groups are also affected,” he said.
“To be silent in this sort of system is to be complicit, so you have to take action. You have to try to make noise in some way to get the system to change, to bring the equality that we should be entitled to in our country,” Parker said.
Christine Bauer organized the event intended as a peaceful vigil in the park, and even brought dozens of candles for those who didn’t bring their own.
“I think it turned out better than expected, actually,” she said. “We were peaceful, there was no violence. There were rumors there were buses coming in, and I’m like, well they’re rumors.
“We had people talking amongst everybody, everybody from all age groups, races are here. I think it was a very nice turnout,” Bauer said. “I hope that with this comes more peace and people will follow the example. My mom always said lead by example. I’m hoping many more communities will follow and do this.”