Janesville rally supports anti-racism efforts in Charlottesville

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Frank Schultz
Tuesday, August 15, 2017

JANESVILLEPolice closed one block of Main Street in downtown Janesville for an hour Tuesday, just in case someone decided to drive into a crowd of anti-racism demonstrators.

The crowd was small, no more than 30, unlike during Saturday’s tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, when a man drove into a crowd, killing a woman.

Some members of the sign-carrying crowd were not happy that police stopped cars from driving by, which kept them from demonstrating their opinions to the public, so they moved from mid-block to the ends of the block where Main Street crosses Milwaukee and Court streets.

“No racism! Stand up for Charlottesville!” they called out as cars passed.

In the end, few if any discouraging words were heard, and plenty of people honked in support as they drove by.

The event was planned as the weekly rally for peace that the local Fellowship of Reconciliation has held since the start of the Iraq War. However, several people decided it would be the right time to protest the racist sentiments expressed in Charlottesville over the weekend, and for some, President Donald Trump.

“I watched the president speak, and that’s why I’m here,” said Pat Buhrman of Janesville, who agreed with critics who said the president did not speak out strongly enough against the racist demonstrators over the weekend.

“Why on earth does it take anybody more than one minute to denounce Nazis?” Buhrman said.

Fellowship member Kathy Holcombe of Janesville held a “Honk for peace” sign. She happily welcomed people who don’t normally attend the vigil, and their viewpoints.

“Everything starts with peace,” Holcombe said. “All of this is related to finding ways to solve our differences.”

Most of the demonstrators appeared to be white and on the older side of 50.

“It’s got to stop. We’re one people. We’re all the human race. ... Hating people because of the color of their skin makes no sense,” said Lynda Richter of Janesville.

One participant said he thinks the statues of Confederate soldiers should remain.

“You cannot rewrite history and expect it to work,” said John Finley, a former Delavan alderman. “Preserve the history as-is and teach it better from both sides.”

But Finley had no good words for those who marched in support of the statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville: “They were rioters. They were terrorists ... an unruly mob marching like a pack of Nazis on Kristallnacht,” he said, referring to an infamous event in Germany before World War II. “I think they’re criminals.”

Janet Dow and Nancy Page of Janesville held signs asking House Speaker Paul Ryan to denounce racism—which he did over the weekend—and to speak up against the president.

“I don’t think anyone in D.C. is speaking up enough about the many, many issues that Trump keeps creating,” Page said.

The event is always held in front of Ryan’s office, but it’s also near the monument marking the place where Abraham Lincoln spoke in 1859, one participant noted.

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