‘We are one race’

Published 8:20 pm Tuesday, June 2, 2020

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Rally held in honor of George Floyd asks for justice, change


Eight days after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, a few hundred people gathered in Albert Lea north of the Freeborn County Courthouse Tuesday to protest against Floyd’s death and to open a dialogue for change.

Floyd, 46, was arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit $20 bill to pay for goods at a grocery store and died after a white officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for minutes, even after he stopped moving. That officer has been charged with third-degree murder in the case, and officials continue to investigate the other three who were also at the scene.

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Twenty-one-year-old rally organizer Hannah Goodemann, who was born and raised in Albert Lea, said she felt that remaining silent in a time like this was unacceptable. She said though talking about racial issues makes people uncomfortable, she thought it was important to demand justice for his family.

“I hope tonight we can peacefully, but loudly, make our voices heard,” Goodemann said.

Attendees of the rally gathered in the county parking lot at the intersection of Newton Avenue and College Street, and organizers encouraged people to practice social distancing and wear face masks. With high temperatures and humidity, Albert Lea police officers handed out water to attendees.

“George Floyd’s life mattered,” Goodemann said.

Other names and instances of other Black people who died while in police custody or in racial shootings were also read off at the event.

Many talked about the need for change on a greater scale but also credited the Albert Lea Police Department for its work in the community.

Albert Lea Public Safety Director J.D. Carlson said no one in law enforcement condones what happened to Floyd and said though he is proud to be a Minnesotan and noted that Minnesota police are highly trained, he knows they can always be better. He invited people in the crowd to remember the Albert Lea Police Department has an open door policy and that if anyone needs anything, they can always reach out or ask him.

Two people who grew up in the Civil Rights movement talked about how they advocated for change decades ago, but sadly many of the same things are still happening today. 

Another person who spoke at the rally said a few years ago he stayed inside his home because he was scared of going outside and having people see his skin color. He tried to stay in his room with his blinds shut tight, hoping in some way he could lighten his skin color so people would like him more.

“We should not be afraid to go outside,” he said, noting he still has social anxiety. “We should not be afraid of getting pulled over. We should not be afraid of going to school and getting bullied. We should be afraid of going to the store. We should not be afraid of walking outside with the risk of being shot or killed because someone does not like the way we look.”

Day Peace, a comedian who lives in Lake Mills and is originally from Detroit, said he felt a sense of belonging attending the rally with his 7-year-old son Drake.

“Peaceful protest is powerful,” Peace said.

He noted he attended his first protest while living in Phoenix in 2016, following the death of Alton Sterling, a black man killed by a white police officer in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The trial has been pushed back for several reasons the last two years.

“I don’t think it’s too early to share what’s going on,” he said about his son.

Desiree Talamantes of Albert Lea said she decided to attend the rally because she felt it was time to speak out and speak up with the movement.

“I have three mixed daughters, and I don’t want them to grow up in this world,” she said.

She carried a sign that said, “We’re not trying to start a race war. We’re trying to end one.”

“We all should be equal,” she said. “We are one race — the human race.”

She said she believes and hopes change will happen.

Melanie Gooden, who lives in Iowa but works in Albert Lea, attended the event with her husband, John Szymanowski, and daughter, Samantha Szymanowski.

“What happened is horrible,” Gooden said. “It’s time for this to stop.”

She said her daughter wanted to come to a protest, and they thought it would be a good experience for her. She noted they were pleased with the turnout and that it stayed peaceful.

As the clouds darkened and the formal event ended, many in the crowd began walking through the downtown streets, carrying their signs and chanting to remember Floyd and that “Black lives matter.”

Heavy winds and heavy rain sent most of the participants in separate directions before 6:30 p.m.