Following the death of George Floyd, a group of Northfield residents have held weekly protests in downtown Northfield to show support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement.
Organized by Sharon Lane-Getaz, associate professor of statistics and education at St. Olaf, and other Northfield residents, the Stand Up Northfield protests aim to spark conversation within the town.
These weekly protests happen every Monday at 5:15 p.m, weather permitting, alongside Highway 19. Beginning as a small assembly of residents who attended the Northfield Women’s March, the weekly gathering has expanded over the summer to include local high school students and families. Organizers encourage masks, social distancing and family-friendly posters.
Since St. Olaf students have returned to campus, Lane-Getaz has been in contact with student organizations on campus and is hoping to see an increased attendance from college students. “The Hill is not an isolated entity. Part of what we are experiencing on campus is a result of what we are feeling across the world. We need to get out in the streets and see our solidarity,” Lane-Getaz said. “I am a Northfield resident. I am a professor at St. Olaf. When we put those two worlds together, there’s power in that.”
Rahmah Iddrisu is one of many high school students that have been attending since the summer, and she has been leading the crowd in chants ever since. Iddrisu brought a megaphone and friends in order to raise the energy when she noticed that the crowd was “idly standing there,”Iddrisu said.
Iddrisu expressed hope for consistent protests in the future. “There have been a few protests in the past, but it’s on and off every few years. I want this to be the time things become consistent,” Iddrisu said.
Iddrisu noted the importance of building community in Northfield as a place to support Black lives. In Northfield, Iddrisu discusses the struggle to find community, “I feel like most Black people feel isolated because of the lack of the community. So to see all these Black people and white people come together and find community … is really inspiring.” Iddrisu said.
Northfield resident Claire Bussman drives two hours from her college in Iowa every Monday to attend these protests with her family.
“This is not a super diverse town, but this is where I grew up. I know we’re trying to do better and I want to support that,” said Bussman. “People need to be out here until there are some changes. If you don’t show up, it doesn’t look like there is a problem; it doesn’t look like people are mad.”
Within the last couple of weeks, the protestors have been met by counter protestors. Four trucks did laps around the area of the protesters with “Trump 2020” flags flying from their vehicles. After the residents moved to Bridge Square, the counter-protesters chanted “four more years” and “all lives matter” as the BLM group tried to hold a moment of silence. Organizers encouraged BLM protestors not to engage.
Protests will continue weekly. The organizers are currently in contact with St. Olaf student organizations to create an event on Oct. 12 for students and residents. The event will include the protest alongside potential speakers.
Reporting contributed by Lydia Bermel, News Editor