Though the protest rally against racism gathered hundreds of people to Effingham, there were people from many area communities involved, including some young people from Jasper County.

They were part of a crowd of more than 400 people gathered on the old courthouse square in Effingham on the afternoon of June 6. The rally in honor of George Floyd included music, words of love and shoutouts against those ignoring racism and those who allow discrimination to continue in many forms still existing in America. There was also a march around the Effingham square with protesters holding up signs showing that they believe now is a time for change.

And it was all a peaceful rally with not words of hate, just determination that the country and local communities must change. There were many references to the unnecessary death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police officers, now facing charges because one officer placed a knee on Floyd’s neck leading to his death.

Jacob Stanley, a 2020 graduate of Newton Community High School, said he came Saturday to support the movement against racism and police violence against people of color. He also wanted to spread the rally’s message to Jasper County and other rural communities as well.

“I came here to support the Black Lives Matter Movement. And spread awareness to rural America on what is going on in the world,” Stanley said as the rally was winding down in Effingham.

He wants people in Jasper County to realize how Saturday’s rally was peaceful and informative.

“I will talk about the great speeches and the great people coming to speak to the crowd here,” Stanley said.

Damien Hartke, a NCHS alumnus, said he was impressed by the turnout and some of the messages. When asked what he thought of Terrence Hill’s comments about some racial prejudice he experienced in Effingham, Hartke agreed that also happens in Jasper County. Hill, an African American, star athlete and honor student, told of how a girl was ordered by her family to stop dating Hill, all because of the color of his skin.

“I heard stores like that when I was in school,” Hartke said. He agreed that is demeaning and unfair.

Mitch Bierman, who was a football teammate with Hartke in 2016, was glad to see people from this area letting go and doing what is right.

“I was impressed that people have finally let go of what other people thought of them. And they stood up for what’s morally right, not just what other people think. And what is morally right in their town. More people need to think about moral justice and what is going on in America. And forget what their immediate circle thinks about them what the town’s image should be,” Bierman said.

Bierman said it is wrong for people to just think about the rioters and looters because they are not the true face of the protest movement.

“People are not paying attention to the narrative. It is invalid and unjustified to say this is all about riots. That’s not true. Sure, there has been rioting but what happened here today is what is happening across the country,” Bierman said.

Josie Angel and Madisson Stanley, both freshmen respectively at Indiana State and Eastern Illinois universities and Newton High alumni, came to the rally with the idea of learning how they could fight racism in their community.

“As people in Newton, we’re trying to bring awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement. Eventually, we’d like to have a peace protest like this one to our community,” said Angel. “A lot of people in Newton don’t know what the black community is going through.”

Her goal is to make it easier for biracial people and those of different races to grow up in Newton and enjoy school. Angel noted she is biracial herself.

Maddison Stanley, who is Jacob’s sister, agreed that in the end all lives matter, but it is important now to support the Black Community as they protest police brutality and the many forms of discrimination.

“I think there is a lot of closed-mindedness in Newton to the Black Lives Matter movement. A lot of people concentrate on the looting. As my sign says, ‘Why so loud on the looting? Why so quiet about the shooting?”

There were many words, lyrics and tears shed during the rally. For Angel, the most moving moment was a time of silence when names were read of black people killed in recent years by police in many cities. The names were recited during the same amount of time, just short of nine minutes, that Floyd was pinned down in Minneapolis and he repeatedly said he could not breathe.

“There were enough black names of those killed by police that it lasted nine minutes. To me that says a lot,” Angel said.

Madisson said she and other young people will not back down on their support for the movement. They are showing that small-town America is against racism and injustice.