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Show of support

Citizens gather for Marshalltown Strong CommUnity event

On Saturday, many community members gathered in the parking lot of the Marshalltown Softball Complex as part of the Marshalltown Strong CommUnity event.

The event, organized by Aly Wenner, Taylor Bear and Joa LaVille and Maria Gonzalez from Immigrant Allies of Marshalltown, sought to start a conversation about the issues of police brutality and systemic racism.

The death of George Floyd has sparked protests and outrage all over the country. Many in Marshalltown have been active in the movement to spark change, which included this event.

Some speakers shared their experiences of being black in America, while others spoke on using their privilege to amplify the Black Lives Matter movement.

As they spoke, many in the crowd shed tears, cheered on the speakers and displayed signs.

T-R PHOTO BY ANNA SHEARER - Organizers of the Marshalltown Strong CommUnity event, from left to right, Joa LaVille, Aly Wenner, Taylor Bear and Maria Gonzalez, pose together.

Police Chief Mike Tupper was the first to speak.

He began by expressing his respect for Marshalltown and how residents support each other.

“I love this community. I love the people here. And I love what we stand for. We always come together during a time of crisis,” Tupper said.

While the community has many strengths, it is dealing with the same issues plaguing the rest of the country.

Tupper said this country is at crossroads and future generations will judge us for how we respond to this situation.

T-R PHOTO BY ANNA SHEARER - Attendees of the Marshalltown Strong CommUnity event show their signs on Saturday.

As Chief of Police, he made it clear that he supports law enforcement, but there are currently issues in the system.

“I believe in law and order, but I also believe law and order cannot exist unless people are treated equally under the law, all people must be protected under the law, and all people must have access to the law,” Tupper said.

He shared his opinion on the death of George Floyd at the hands of police.

“I want to make it very clear that what happened in Minneapolis is wrong. I denounce it,” Tupper said.

He went on to say that all of the police officers he has spoken to around the country have agreed that the actions of the police officers responsible for Floyd’s death are wrong. Tupper said their actions were criminal and those responsible must be held accountable.

T-R PHOTO BY ANNA SHEARER - People gather at the Marshalltown Softball Complex to show their support for Black Lives Matter.

He challenged the community to engage the police department, to be involved and to examine those in leadership positions.

” I often hear, ‘Hey I support you, but that’s just not my cause.’ When it comes to justice and oppression, that cause belongs to all of us,” Tupper said.

Tupper has a response to those who are saying Black Lives Matter with the phrase, “All lives matter.”

“Of course all lives matter. But unless we’re going to make black lives a priority, all lives can never truly matter,” he said.

Next to speak was Bree Wenner. She shared a list of things she was tired of experiencing as a black woman.

T-R PHOTO BY ANNA SHEARER

Some of these were, “I’m tired of people assuming pro-black is anti-white.”

“I’m tired of having to justify why my life as well as my family’s life matters.”

“I’m tired of having to dread the day that my baby is discriminated against and we have to have the talk.”

Taylor Bear, a resident of Marshalltown who grew up here, shared her experiences with racism. She recounted being called racial slurs, being accused of crimes for no reason and other racist behavior she has experienced.

“I believe that all lives do truly matter, but we have to recognize that black lives are in jeopardy. And they matter,” Bear said.

She went on to challenge people to take action during this time.

“Why I’m standing here today is to ask you to please educate yourselves. Please use your privilege. Talk to people of color. Talk to black people. Learn about what we go through on a day-to-day basis. Get uncomfortable. Talk about racism and injustice. It’s not going to be easy,” Bear said.

Dylan Does, pastor at Restore Church, challenged attendees to use the words of Jesus as a call to action.

He quoted Jesus from Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for justice, for they will be filled,”

Does said God calls everyone to love their neighbor, no matter their skin color, and be active in making things better for everyone.

“This is not just a black issue. This is a human issue. To be able to proclaim black lives matter is not solely a black responsibility,” he said

While many are saddened by police brutality and the deaths of black people, they are not acting. Does said people must let their emotions move them to action.

“It is not enough to be emotional in the middle. It’s not enough to be sorrowful in the middle. We must sacrifice in the middle. That is our call, not from me but from the creator of our souls,” he said.

Aly Wenner, one of the organizers of the event and a Marshalltown resident, ended the event with her own experiences.

“Being a black woman in America and a black American in general means mentally writing eulogies for black and brown bodies we’ve lost to police brutality and obvious, senseless acts of violent prejudice,” she said.

Wenner also responded to people who are saying “All lives matter.”

“The aim of this movement is to illustrate the extent to which black lives have not mattered in this country. All lives should matter, but they cannot matter until black Americans are counted in as well,” she said.

Wenner hopes that by acting today, future generations will not have to experience the same injustices.

“We march so our children are not forced to stand where I am standing right now and have this same conversation. We speak so our children do not have to question their value. And we protest so we do not pass down our pens to our children to write the same universal eulogies we’re forced to articulate as a black community,” she said.

Wenner mentioned her gratitude to allies for their action. While many have gotten involved, she said the fight is not over. Wenner encouraged people to sign petitions, donate, vote and continue to educate themselves.

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Contact Anna Shearer at ashearer@timesrepublican.com.

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