In the wake of the national protests and riots responding to the Minneapolis police brutality case that left African American George Floyd dead, Galt community members last week rallied together in front of city hall to tell their fellow Galtonians that enough was enough.
However, the group that gathered Friday and Saturday, June 5 and 6, was there for more than the Floyd incident.
A sole protestor quietly took to the streets on Thursday, armed only with a poster saying “Black Lives Matter”.
“Even though Galt is a predominantly Caucasian neighborhood, I am aware that we do have community members who are African American and I wanted them to know that they are welcomed here and that they have support within the community,” the protestor told The Galt Herald.
The protestor drew attention from many Galt residents, most giving her positive support in the form of honking the car horn, bringing her a drink on the hot day and stopping to speak with her to offer words of gratitude and encouragement.
However, the friendly interactions were not the only attention given to the lone protestor. Both while she was holding her sign and later on social media, individuals expressed their opposition to her message. Some of the comments caused the protestor to fear retribution and, therefore, has asked to remain anonymous.
It is those negative comments that sparked the group to gather the next day, both to rally on behalf of that lone protestor and to continue her message.
“My family and I made the decision to demonstrate after seeing a lot of the Galt Facebook groups, which contained comments bashing and threatening the lone protester,” Galt resident Joycelynn Hollis said. “This young lady took her time to let the minorities in the community know that someone sees them and cares about their struggle. She was standing there for my family and all the other Galt families who have ever felt unwelcomed in this town. She was showing the world that even small towns care. I could not sit by and watch this young lady fight for my rights only to get attacked and threatened with physical violence. So we went to City Hall Friday and it started with just my little family of five.”
The Hollis family was soon joined by over a dozen like-minded residents, and even Galt Police Chief Tod Sockman stopped by in support of the gathering group and, of course, for a photo.
“There were many people who said they joined just because they saw us there,” Hollis said. “That was amazing and so heartfelt.”
The now united protestors agreed to return the following day. Hollis posted on several Facebook pages that the group was going to gather on Saturday.
While the lone protestor on Thursday stood on three different street corners on C Street to share her message, the Friday and Saturday groups gathered in front of City Hall on the corner of C Street and Civic Drive to convey their message.
“It was great to see so many in Galt gather peacefully in the name of justice and ending systemic biases and racism,” Hollis said. “It shows the world, like Paris, Britain, Canada and other countries that have held rallies in support of the movement, that yes, the small town of Galt agrees. We may be a small ‘cow town’ but that does not mean we have to live in a close-minded one sided society.”
Hollis said that most of those who drove through the community honked in agreement with their signs and presence.
“I cannot tell you the number of Galt residents that thanked me and told me that, up until now, they have never felt welcomed in this community; some have been residents for 30 years and have never felt welcomed. Hopefully, this movement and activism group changes that.”
However, there were a few that expressed they were not happy with the peaceful protest.
“We received a few flip offs but, over all, for every ‘bird’ we got, we probably received 10 honks of support,” Hollis said. “It lets me and the community know that a handful of very loud people are causing the majority of this town to feel that we are not progressive and inclusive. It’s time that the residents of Galt start to drown out the hate and negativity created by a small group that does not represent the spirit of our Great American Town.”
Now Hollis is on a mission to drown out the hate and negativity, starting with another peaceful protest today, Wednesday, June 10 at City Hall. Future protests are also planned; however, details of locations are still being organized.
Hollis has started a new Galt Facebook group called Wake Up Galt and invites residents who wish to be part of the change to join the private group.
“Going forward, Wake Up Galt will continue to work toward the equality of all and diversity education within our community” Hollis said. “We support BLM, Latino rights, LGBTQA+ rights, Native American rights, women’s rights, the homeless and any other groups that feel oppressed in our community.”
Hollis wanted to make it clear that the group is not against law enforcement.
“We are not an anti-police group,” Hollis said. “We understand that good cops are paying for bad cop mistakes and that the police will be an important part of the change we want to see. We are already working with the Chief of Police to create mutual understanding in the community.”
Overall, Hollis said that the group’s goal is to improve community relationships.
“We are here to make Galt better through actions and not just words,” Hollis said. “We are a peaceful group of your neighbors. We do not advocate and, in fact, will turn in any individual that loots, commits violence, vandalism or any other criminal activity during or in the name of Wake Up Galt. We are here to better our community, not tearing it apart. So residents [don’t need to worry] about Wake Up Galt members looting – not going to happen, not on my watch and not through my organization; it defeats the purpose of our activism group.”
The group has many ideas in the hopper, including creating cultural events, town halls and roundtable discussions, to name just a few.
“We are planning to make a difference in so, so many ways, and we are only five days into the movement; it’s a crazy, inspiring ride,” Hollis said.
And the lone protestor?
Her message aligns with Hollis’ group.
“My message for the people of Galt would be: Regardless of what is going on in the country and the world, it is important to put our personal differences/views aside and never forget what Galt actually stands for, which is being a Great American Little Town. The only one to accomplish that is by being a community that is inclusive, welcoming to all, and supporting one another. Remember, there is no community, without unity.”
Find Hollis’ group on Facebook by searching Wake Up Galt on the social media website.