EFFINGHAM — A peaceful rally is scheduled for Saturday at the Effingham County Cultural Center and Museum lawn to promote racial equality and inclusion.
Organizers say the rally is in support of those protesting the murder of George Floyd, a 46-year-old black man who died in Minneapolis after Derek Chauvin, a white officer with the Minneapolis Police Department, pressed his knee to Floyd's neck. Chauvin has been fired and charged with murder.
The Effingham Social Justice Group is hosting the event. Group and event committee member Anna Habing described it as a "teach-in."
She said the group's goal is to educate the community about social injustices occurring in and outside of Effingham County. Habing said although police brutality does not occur in the county or surrounding areas, members want to raise awareness.
Habing said the rally will feature speakers, starting with local Matthew Robinson who will speak at 1 p.m. Habing encouraged attendees to show up a little before 1 p.m. as Robinson's speech will start right at 1 p.m.
Habing said the social justice group discourages counter-protests; it aims for a peaceful outing.
The Effingham Social Justice Group formed in the wake of the current protests and demonstrations across the country and world calling for justice for Floyd and other black Americans killed by law enforcement.
Habing said Saturday's rally will be the first of many events hosted by the social justice group.
The group's press release:
"It is our intention to bring people together in support of black people in our community and throughout our country. In light of the recent killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, MN, we also call for justice and accountability for Mr. Floyd, and reform in law enforcement.
"In light of the ongoing Covid19 pandemic, we ask that everyone please wear a mask.
"We are very fortunate to live in a community where the police do not have a recent history of discrimination or brutality and we thank and commend our police and our community leaders for leading by example. It is so important that we are able to rely on law enforcement to help us when we need them and to trust them to help us and protect us without regard to race. Unfortunately, we understand that in many communities, black people fear and even hate the police. When we witness George Floyd being killed, we can understand why.
"Putting law enforcement aside, we recognize that black people are frequently treated differently because of the color of their skin. As we gather on Saturday, we ask everyone to reflect on how we react to our neighbors based on how they look or their accent or their country of origin. How do we talk about them in front of our families and friends? We learn our attitudes toward others from infancy. The actions and words of our parents, siblings, coaches and teachers inform how we view people who look or sound different from us. We hope that by encouraging this kind of reflection, we can foster a more inclusive and vibrant community.
"As we exercise our 1st Amendment right to peaceably assemble, we ask that all participants remain peaceful and non-confrontational. This is not a political event. We call for positive messaging on all signage as we seek to bring our community together to foster unity, racial equality and inclusion."
Schedule of events:
12 noon. Sign making stations open
1 p.m. Opening remarks by Natalee Swafford
1:05 p.m. Music by Anna Habing
1:15 p.m. Matthew Robinson speaks
1:20 p.m. Music and demonstrating with signs
1:30 p.m. March through downtown
1:45 p.m. 9 minutes of reflection
1:55 p.m. Taylor Steele sings Amazing Grace
Effingham Social Justice Group