'No place for hate in Greencastle' stressed as 120 participate in community march

Sunday, April 22, 2018
Group estimated at 120 assembles on north side of the Putnam County Courthouse in peaceful community anti-racism rally Saturday evening. A gallery of photos from the rally appears elsewhere on this website. Banner Graphic/ERIC BERNSEE

As a mild Indiana spring evening brought bustling business to Greencastle's downtown Saturday with diners filling local eateries, a couple of Greencastle and Cloverdale prom-goers took the opportunity to use the courthouse and its surroundings as backdrop for a Kodak moment.

In between, however, a more serious event aimed at posterity was unfolding. Dozens of community members, responding to events of the past week in town and on the campus of DePauw University, staged a peaceful protest against racism and its accompanying climate of hate by marching 120 strong with signs and chants like "Silence is violence" and "Black lives matter" from Gobin Memorial United Methodist Church to the north side of the Putnam County Courthouse.

There, a series of remarks were made by Rebecca Alexander, a DePauw professor who said she was speaking as a member of the community, a homeowner and a parent; Russell Harvey, a black resident of Greencastle; Tyler Wade, a community resident and member of the Greencastle City Council; Leslie Hanson, a Greencastle resident and longtime member of the Greencastle League of Women Voters; and Greencastle Mayor Bill Dory.

In a statement provided to the Banner Graphic, organizers of the community anti-racism march explained their motivation.

"We are gathering today to break the white silence coming from our community," the statement began.

"There is no wall between the city and the university campus -- and while we did not commit the racist acts, we are responsible for what happens in our community. We are responsible for the broader climate in which those words terrorize.

Community marchers cross Washington Street, chanting "Silence is violence" and "Black lives matter," as they make their way to the north side of the courthouse for an anti-racism rally Saturday evening. A gallery of photos from the rally appears elsewhere on this website. Banner Graphic/ERIC BERNSEE

"Members of our community -- both on and off campus have been targeted and threatened. We will hold ourselves, one another and our government accountable for speaking out, speaking up and interrupting racism.

"There should be no place for hate in Greencastle," the statement concluded.

And that conclusion permeated remarks made from the courthouse steps.

"Hatred has no place in this city or this university," City Councilman Wade later stressed. "However, if the last week has taught us anything, it is that unfortunately, hate is still alive. Nevertheless, we do not have to allow hate to make its home in Greencastle.

"Let us make sure that hate was an unfortunate, temporary visitor, and let us drive it out of town by loving each other a little stronger, listening a little deeper, and trying a little harder to see the best in everyone."

Wade urged that residents to not let the march and rally be the end of community involvement.

"But let us resolve to continue the conversation in our homes, churches, schools, and businesses once we leave," he said, characterizing the prior week as a tough period for the city.

"I know many of you are tired," he said. "I know many of you are scared. The events of the last week have been exhausting. No one should have to face the hateful and cowardly acts our city and university have encountered. However, I hope that, in the midst of these unfortunate events, we can find a glimmer of hope for a better tomorrow. I hope that, in the tension of this moment, we can open the door for a conversation and begin the process of healing this community."

In addressing the assembled group and a few onlookers, Wade recalled Martin Luther King's Sept. 5, 1960 appearance at Gobin Church, coincidentally the starting point of Saturday's march and rally.

"In his address, Dr. King said, 'Black supremacy is as dangerous as white supremacy, and God is not interested merely in the freedom of black men and brown men and yellow men. God is interested in the freedom of the whole human race and the creation of a society where all men will live together as brothers, and all men will respect the dignity and worth of all human personality,'" Wade noted. "I hope that describes the kind of community we have here in Greencastle, but I know that for many King's words from 58 years ago bring into contrast how our community, our country and our world have fallen short of realizing that dream."

Wade, who has lived in Greencastle most of his life, said he loves the city for its "awesome mix of people who live here."

"I love that on a Saturday night you can go into a restaurant and see college students sitting next to professors who are sitting next to factory workers and schoolteachers and farmers and artists and plumbers," he said. "That is the strength of our community. However, it can also be our weakness. Sometimes we come from so many different backgrounds and world views that we talk past each other and forget to listen. And listening requires loving one another. A community is like a family -- and in a family, you don't have to like each other, but you do have to love each other. And love is what this community needs right now."

The city councilman called upon all residents "to show love and wisdom and compassion toward one another."

Wade then urged residents, city officials and state leaders to do their part.

"I call upon us all to not let this tension go to waste," he said, "but to use it as an opportunity to force our families, our friends and our neighbors to have difficult conversations.

"I call upon us all to push Mayor Dory and my fellow members of the City Council to adopt legislation that outlaws discrimination in the City of Greencastle," he said to an outburst of applause, then continuing to urge that Gov. Holcomb and the Indiana General Assembly adopt a statewide hate crimes law to enhance sentences for those who commit crimes, intended to spread fear among marginalized peoples.

Alexander, who opened the public remarks, said that a safer community is "one that holds itself accountable."

It isn't enough, she stressed, that we say, "'Trust us, this isn't us.' Or 'Trust us, this doesn't happen here.' Or 'Trust us, this community is safe.'"

Instead, we must be accountable, she reiterated, suggesting that education and training would be helpful "for our police, our community and ourselves."

"We need to do the work, we need to stand up," she concluded.

Mayor Dory, meanwhile, pledged that the city "will not be deterred by racist and ugly actions."

Noting that the city strives to "be welcoming and inclusive," Dory said he and the City Council are researching "several actions to be announced within the next couple of weeks" to help Greencastle continue "to grow and be better neighbors."

View 16 comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. Please note that those who post comments on this website may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.
  • First of all, ALL LIVES MATTER, secondly people need to stop talking about race. We are all just Americans ,not Afro-Americans not white Americans Just Americans, There should not be a black history month, just a American history month. Black history is American History. Obama did more to increase racism than any thing or person in 20 years. As far as hate in Greencastle I just don't see it.

    -- Posted by JUSTBD on Mon, Apr 23, 2018, at 7:18 AM
  • Do you not have any thing better to do?

    I have roots that go back Norway, do Norwegian lives matter at all? I guess not.

    Symbolism over substance ....

    -- Posted by GRNT on Mon, Apr 23, 2018, at 8:40 AM
  • Just another liberal arts major checking off a box on their resume. “Started a social movement for racial equality when minorities were threatened by racist community” - check.

    Postgrad program at Berkeley will be happy to have them.

    -- Posted by Clovertucky on Mon, Apr 23, 2018, at 8:58 AM
  • Interesting...lived here forever..... grew up during Civil Right Movement.... what was gained in the past was lost during Obama yrs... racism & reverse racism at new heights

    -- Posted by beenthere too on Mon, Apr 23, 2018, at 10:02 AM
  • *

    I was at one of the restaurants on the square when this happened and what I found hilarious is that out of the supposed 120 people that took part in this "march," I saw only 2 or 3 people of color in the entire crowd. I don't think the entire thing lasted much more than 30 minutes, too.

    To me, this whole thing is a joke and makes those that took part in it look like fools.

    -- Posted by DouglasQuaid on Mon, Apr 23, 2018, at 10:47 AM
  • Funny how the “content of ones character” gets ignored. The character on display here is a bunch of rabble rousers trying to make others feel guilty and responsible for the actions of others. Sorry but I’m not feeling guilty for the pigment the Lord created me with, nor am I being held accountable for actions out of my control.

    -- Posted by WONDER on Mon, Apr 23, 2018, at 11:16 AM
  • I participated in this March. It does not matter how many black people were there. It doesn't matter that some of you can not see past yourself. IT was not organized to make you feel guilty. All lives matter is just putting yourself into the focus cause you can't not be in the light. I'm sorry none of you above can think how your perspective affect others. IT does not matter if there was 12, or 120 , or a larger number, What matters is we stood up there for the our community member this stuff has be written about. Its sad that in that you feel the need to discredit it to make your self worth seem as if it is more valuable than any other persons. There were speakers that spoke about their on expirences and how as a community we can focus on how to counter these issues.

    I know you won't care about my words. I know I can not stand here and change you view or your idea that you are worth more. But as for me and my home. I will teach my children to stand up any time they see stuff happen. To stand up against hate.

    My children will be the future to a better place were everyone is worth the time to march everyone is worthy of not being labeled as hateful names. Black lives matter is not about squashing our your white life it about focusing on what is happening against them. They are asking you to look at not not turn your face and just pretend that it doesn't matter to you cause it is not your family.

    White Silence is Violence Your you skin your body to say hey that's not right of you to spew such hatred.

    Fi you read this thank you.

    -- Posted by liasmommy on Mon, Apr 23, 2018, at 12:56 PM
  • *

    @liasmommy - You took it upon yourselves to obstruct traffic, require law enforcement resources that were likely better used elsewhere, and disrupt daily life using a "Black Lives Matter" narrative, so yes, the number of blacks in attendance *DOES* matter and affects the image illustrated with this event. Given Greencastle has more than 1,000 blacks, I'd say it's almost a deal-breaker. In fact, I'd even say that their absence from the event says more about the situation and those in attendance than every single sign brought to the square by those drunk with White Guilt ever could.

    Your word salad above isn't going to incriminate anyone on here just because you disagree with their comments nor is it convincing others that your indoctrination solves problems or enables a more productive society.

    -- Posted by DouglasQuaid on Mon, Apr 23, 2018, at 2:36 PM
  • Looking over the Pictures all I see is a bunch of ultra liberal cry babies that think they have all the answers and in reality they know nothing about how to help this so called hate problem. I would hate to think what is preached in that Ultra liberal church most of them go to also. I'm sure they cherry pick the Bible.

    -- Posted by JUSTBD on Mon, Apr 23, 2018, at 3:44 PM
  • "White Silence is Violent"? REALLY? Not sure what this march did to help anyone. If you want to help, do something personal for the minorities to really help them. Talk to them one on one and see what kind of help they need. If you wanted your 15 minutes of fame, sorry, I don't think it worked.

    -- Posted by Rainbow6 on Mon, Apr 23, 2018, at 4:13 PM
  • To all those who read the negative comments to this article and are depressed and upset please take heart. This community has a lot of hard work to do and you are not alone.

    -- Posted by Rockypenguin on Mon, Apr 23, 2018, at 6:58 PM
  • The hard work will continue in this community and I am hopeful that Greencastle will become a more welcoming and safe place to live and raise a family.

    -- Posted by Rockypenguin on Mon, Apr 23, 2018, at 7:17 PM
  • The comment thread itself explains why the march needed to happen. I would invite people of good will skeptical of the purpose of the march to educate themselves about race in this country, rather than falling back on largely unexamined assumptions about what racism is. And by "educate" I mean read the work of those who have made a rigorous study of race in America. Read with a critical eye, yes - I'm not saying you will or even should accept every word written, just that you should be exposed to the actual, research-based arguments of experts before imagining you have a well-founded opinion. One book I've read that was eye-opening is "The New Jim Crow" by Michelle Alexander; another I've had recommended and have just begun reading is "What it Means to Be White" by Robin DiAngelo. The ability to make the statements dominating this comment thread - that's what it means to be white. Understanding this is not about being ashamed of being white, or feeling guilty; it is simply to understand how race works in this country.

    The defensive reactions to a march dedicated to the proposition that Black Lives Matter - which is a logical consequence of "All Lives Matter" and which does not in any way imply that white or Norwegian lives do not matter - show how deeply entrenched the system of racism is in the minds of pretty much all of us, whether or not we consciously entertain thoughts of racial prejudice. It's particularly telling that even basic factual accuracy can go out the window in service of these dismissive arguments. For instance, DouglasQuaid makes the easily debunked assertion that "Greencastle has more than 1,000 blacks." A casual Google search reveals that as of 2016, 245 Greencastle residents identified as Black, with an additional 145 who claimed more than one race. Ironically, if there were 2-3 African Americans at the march, that would pretty much be reflective of the demographics of the community! (And I can't help but suspect that if the march were substantially people of color, there would simply be a different complaint about its racial composition, in the name of delegitimizing the message.)

    Last year I left Greencastle and traveled to Washington State by bicycle. I now live in a community that largely views itself as progressive, but that clearly struggles with racism. I passed through dozens of communities, large and small, and not one of them is free of some form of racism. Greencastle is no different from any of them in that regard. What is important is not whether or not racism exists in a community, but what each community does to face the fact of its existence. I know nobody in Greencastle wants to be painted with the broad brush of lazy stereotype, which in this case can include a stereotype of white folks in rural communities as ignorant racists. The only way to shatter a stereotype like that is to refuse to live up (or down) to it. Use your intellect to become curious about racism, not to generate refutations of its existence. Challenge yourself to understand the experiences of people of other races in our society, preferably from viewpoints different from your own. This needs to happen everywhere in this nation, not just Greencastle. But this is a moment when Greencastle is going to tell the world what kind of a place it is.

    The marchers are offering a vision. Will the larger community embrace or reject it - and if the latter, what vision takes its place?

    -- Posted by caraher on Tue, Apr 24, 2018, at 12:12 AM
  • What was accomplished with this so-called march?

    .... nothing ....

    Again, symbolism over any substance.

    -- Posted by GRNT on Tue, Apr 24, 2018, at 8:42 AM
  • *

    @caraher - That's still 240-something people that could've attended the White Guilt-athon that didn't. Again, that says the most about the situation and those that did all this.

    But whether it's 245 or a million+, Greencastle isn't the Clan Nest that good little indoctrinated apprentices like yourself desperately want to make it out to be for the sake of their own grandeur. Everyone is welcome in this town and everyone already realized this a long time ago but despite that fact, your DePauw Left missed the memo about mean people always doing mean things. That's just life and, well, you'll just have to swallow that pill at some point.

    -- Posted by DouglasQuaid on Tue, Apr 24, 2018, at 9:18 AM
  • My family and I have lived in Greencastle for many years. We are a minority family, but the ONLY place where we have witnessed any kind of racism is at DePauw. And we are not talking about the manufactured racism that has been grabbing the headlines in recent days, but the institutionalized, systematic, and all-pervasive racism that permeates all spheres of life at DePauw. At DePauw race is used at all levels for all sorts of decisions and programs. They use race in admissions, they use race in hiring, they use race in firing, they use race for promotions, they use race for demotions, they use race for stipends and awards, they use race to create special positions, they create racially segregated housing, they use race when grading students, they use race when disciplining, and on, and on, and on.

    Many years ago one of the faculty members, pictured at the demonstration above, remarked that in the old, “unenlightened,” days the DePauw student body resembled, and I quote, “Hitler Youth.” I was stunned. I could not believe that someone would associate the entire population of a small liberal arts college with the most evil man in history, solely based on the color of their skin. The sad thing is, and the events of the past two weeks have confirmed this, that many of their faculty and staff still view their white students this way.

    -- Posted by saulalinsky on Thu, Apr 26, 2018, at 7:46 PM
Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: