Rugby students, community members protest march against racism
A small group of Rugby High School students and alumni turned an idea to speak out against racism into reality last Sunday, when they organized a protest march through town.
The afternoon march drew about 70 protestors, most of them current or former Rugby residents.
The protest centered on drawing attention to Black Lives Matter, a movement created to raise awareness to racism and issues faced by African Americans in the United States.
The crowd of marchers that formed in front of the Rugby Armory and walked from Third Avenue Southeast toward Main Avenue downtown before returning to the armory.
Marchers came from all walks of life in Rugby. A retired doctor joined the group of teens, parents with children in strollers and other retirees. Pastor Elaine Sveet joined the group, wearing a t-shirt that read, “Hate has no speech.”
RHS student Jacoby Glasser, who organized the protest together with recent Rugby grads Kate Heidlebaugh and Melody Johnson, told the Tribune, “We’re not really trying to change anyone’s mind. We’re mainly trying to educate people. We want to try to bring awareness to the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality. We do have great police in town that are willing to come and support. So, we’re really just sending out a good message to others and educate today.”
Glasser said the protest was “in memory of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. Her birthday was just a couple of days ago and we really want to come out and show support.”
During the march, Glasser and other protestors chanted several names of African Americans who were killed by police.
Co-organizer Melody Johnson said, “I was scrolling through Instagram about a week ago and it’s all over my social media. I think it’s great because even people who are completely unrelated to political things on their account, they were posting a lot about the protests and all the police brutality happening at the protests. I wanted to show them that Rugby is not exempt from activism. Small towns need to have their say, too.”
“Because even if we’re small and don’t really experience the hard police brutality that they experience in cities, any support is good support,” Johnson added.
“Me, Kate Heidlebaugh and Jacoby, the three of us put something on our story (on Facebook), and that’s where it spread,” Johnson continued.
Johnson said she had made “contingency plans” to keep the march peaceful.
“I’m telling everyone to get into small groups and pay attention to people in your small groups and stay vigilant. Look for people that might (try to disrupt the march). I brought extra masks and hand sanitizer. I’m going to tell everyone to space out when they’re marching, not enough to block traffic, but just enough that we can still be a group and maintain the regulations.”
Heidlebaugh told the Tribune via text message, “We want the people to know that even though we are a small and close town, that we still have people of color who are most likely struggling during these trying times. We want solidarity with those who play a role in the movement.”
RHS alum Tawny Cale spoke to the group before they began their march. She then said a Native American prayer with them and lit sage to bring “good spirit” to the march.
“I got word that there was this movement happening, and I serve as secretary for the statewide board of the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition, so I came out and said I’d like to help in any way possible,” the 2005 RHS grad said.
“I love seeing that a small community like Rugby, my home town, is hosting an event like this. I’ve been a part of several marches and several demonstrations, and never in my hometown. It’s really emotional for me to be here with these guys,” Cale added.
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