Pequot Lakes group holds peaceful demonstration on bridge overpass
It only took a couple hours for an idea to hold a peaceful demonstration in Pequot Lakes to go from inception to reality Tuesday night, June 2. In that time, word spread to approximately 20 local residents who joined the event on the County Road 11 bridge over Highway 371.
Pequot Lakes' Marc Hummel started announcing the event on social media at approximately 5 p.m. By 8:30 p.m. he was far from alone on the overpass sidewalk. The goal was to bring discussion back to a productive place and away from the riots in Minneapolis and St. Paul in the wake of the death of a black man, George Floyd.
“We were in Minneapolis the last three days, and we noticed the attention completely going in the wrong direction,” Hummel said. “We were a part of so many beautiful things. So many things have changed in discussion of what we need to actually be doing - that's where the attention needs to be. And we're just trying to bring the attention back to that and bring that up north too and just say, 'You know, everything we've seen on the screen, it's not exactly what's happening there.'”
Hummel said he felt he used to be part of the problem.
“I've never protested anything in my life,” Hummel said. “I felt drawn to it because I watched that video and watched George Floyd be killed, and what was done to him.”
The demonstration included music played on a radio, signs and a nine minute “silent kneel” with candles. Hummel asked everyone to kneel directly on the sidewalk to learn exactly how difficult it can be to kneel for nine minutes. This was significant because the video of Floyd's death shows a Minneapolis police officer - who was since fired and charged with third-degree murder - kneeling on Floyd's neck and the road for eight to nine minutes.
After the kneel, Hummel led those in the group who were interested in the Lord's Prayer.
Drivers seemed to respond mostly positively or neutrally to their presence, though some accelerated in front of the group and at least two diesel pickup trucks revved up and blew black smoke on the demonstrators as they passed. One individual allegedly brandished a hunting rifle and flashed the group with a strobe light. Apparently this was determined to be a misunderstanding.
“There was some confusion that some car went speeding across the bridge and the guy (who allegedly brandished the rifle) thought the car was part of the protest,” said Pequot Lakes Police Chief Eric Klang. “He thought that was terrible, so that's what he was doing."
In the end, the person and demonstrators ended up shaking hands after he found out what they were doing and that the speeding car wasn't part of it, Klang said, adding this was still not the appropriate response.
The police chief told the city council at its regular meeting earlier in the evening of the pending peaceful protest. He said Hummel had laid out the plans for the event, and followed through.
“I thought it went really well,” said Klang. “It was a peaceful protest and the organizer gave a rundown of how things were going to play out and it played out exactly like he said it would, so we're very pleased with it and certainly support that as well.”
Hummel and the group encouraged the donation of supplies during the event, not including money but food, water and medical supplies that will be donated in the Twin Cities when he returns there. There are efforts in the works to organize a means for those who were not present to donate.
There is a possibility for more demonstrations in the area.
“There's been mention of something on July 4, possibly another moment of silence while taking a knee up in Brainerd or somewhere nearby - city hall or a courthouse," Hummel said.
Hummel and his group did their best to maintain their message even when those few people gave obscene gestures, blew black smoke or sped through the overpass. To each they would shout, “We love you,” in keeping with Hummel's goal of turning the narrative toward something constructive. The demonstration was to last until midnight.
“My whole thing is to take the attention off of the rioting, the looting and the destruction and say we can protest, but we can protest in love and promote faith,” Hummel said. “And that's all I'm trying to do. I don't necessarily know all the right answers or where to go from here. But I know there's some people here that might, and if we bring them together, maybe something could come about. And a big thing that rang in my head that I heard a couple days ago was, white silence equals violence, and it really rang true with me as one person.”
Travis Grimler may be reached at 218-855-5853 or email@example.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Travis.