March around courthouse

Photo by Harley Tomlinson

“Rally for Peace” participants circle the Jasper County Courthouse to kick off the June 11 event.

MONTICELLO — A Twin Lakes High School graduate hopes to start a conversation in White County about bias and “systemic racism,” and how people can come together and move past it.

Titled “Rally for Change,” organizer London Griesey, of Monticello, hopes people will attend and educate themselves on how people can come together “during these difficult times.”

The event, spawned by the continuous worldwide Black Lives Matter movement during the last several weeks, will be 6 p.m. June 25 at the main gazebo on the White County Building grounds.

People who plan to attend the June 25 rally in Monticello can expect to see a heavy police presence, according to Monticello Police Chief Jason Lingenfelter.

“We’re hoping it will be peaceful,” he said Monday morning while visiting downtown businesses to advise them of the upcoming rally and of road closures that will occur downtown ahead of Thursday’s event.

Monticello Mayor Cathy Gross said the city supports the rights of people to assemble and express themselves.

“We appreciate learning of the event in advance and are grateful for the relationship we have with White County officials and law enforcement that provides us with the opportunity to provide safe assembly,” she said. “We are hopeful that it will remain peaceful.”

Most Monticello business owners contacted by the Herald Journal didn’t want to go on the record for this story, but all said they are worried about the rally because they don’t know what to expect.

Willie Roth, owner of Roth Jewelers, recently took down plywood to protect his business in response to a threat earlier this month. He said the plywood is going back up.

“I hope it’s peaceful,” he said of the rally. “That’s all we can hope for.”

Griesey, a rising sophomore at Purdue University and a 2019 TLHS grad, said she hopes the rally will spread the message of positive change and how people can change their own biases.

Griesey is patterning the Monticello rally after a similar event in Rensselaer earlier this month organized by her friend, Hillary Hall — a rally that turned out to be peaceful and saw about 100 people attend.

“We had been talking about how we both wanted to put on a small-town event in both of our communities. She acted and reacted much quicker than I did,” Griesey said. “I wanted to see the schedule she created and how (Rensselaer’s guests) spoke. I used (Hall’s event) as a template to create one here.

“We will promote our message of standing in solidarity with one another,” Griesey added. “Right now, America has become very polarized. We’re not trying to get people to choose sides. We’re trying to promote people coming together to create a better tomorrow.”

Speakers will include a local pastor, members of the African American community in White County talking about their experiences in predominantly white communities and the challenges they face, and there will be a moment of silence for people who have been killed due to “social injustices,” Griesey said.

She hopes the event will cause people to look within themselves and reveal their own “inherent biases.”

“We all carry our own inherent biases and we may not even realize we have them,” Griesey said. “We will talk about how to change those biases.”

Griesey emphasized that violence of any kind will not be tolerated before, during or after the rally. She added that the rally is not aimed at law enforcement.

“Police brutality is just one thing that is happening in the United States. The police are there to protect us and they are there to make sure the event stays peaceful,” she said. “We know we have to be careful how we word things because we don’t want people who may be part of the opposition to get upset.”

Griesey expects the rally to last about an hour.

“It all depends on how fast each person can speak,” she said. “The quicker we get through it, the easier it will be for law enforcement.”

The rally will also encourage people to register for the upcoming general election.

“We will be push becoming an active voter. We will have voter registration there,” Griesey said. “The small changes start within you, but you can vote for people who can create change and better policies so we can end systematic oppression.”

She is hopeful that at least 100 people will turn out for the event.

“But you never know what to expect. If we can get the word out, I think more people will become interested and engaged,” she said.

Plans for the event came together late Friday, and Griesey announced it via Facebook as an upcoming event post.

“We wanted to expedite the rally as quickly as possible because it’s in the news now and people know about it,” she said. “(Racial equality) shouldn’t be something that dies off anyway because it’s so important and changes need to be made.”

Griesey is studying law and society, with a minor in political science, at Purdue University. The June 25 rally will be her first attempt at event organization.

“I hope that it goes well and we spread our positive message,” she said. “Hopefully this event will allow people to begin having these uncomfortable conversations with themselves and their families, and we can promote a better tomorrow.

“It’s not about creating division, it’s about creating unity and peace.”

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