ELY –More than 300 people walked from Central Avenue to Whiteside Park in Ely on Saturday afternoon in support of a Peaceful March of Solidarity. The event organized by local resident Ian Lah …
ELY –More than 300 people walked from Central Avenue to Whiteside Park in Ely on Saturday afternoon in support of a Peaceful March of Solidarity. The event organized by local resident Ian Lah was held 12 days after the death of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody, which has sparked protests around the world.
Lah invited people to march with him in solidarity and union in support of Black Lives Matter. Supporters of all ages came with signs and most wore protective face masks as the coronavirus is still very real, even in Ely.
“Having grown up here, I knew there were people who had so much heart with the protests happening in other places but couldn’t be part of them because we live so far up north and because of COVID-19,” Lah said. “I hoped for maybe 30 people and we had 10 times that. I was overwhelmed by the turnout and so happy my town participated in this show of solidarity.”
Once at the park, the group gathered around the “Peace Pole” and hung a wreath in support of Black Lives Matter.
“There was a real sense of peacefulness and reverence that was exhibited,” Lah said. “Together we tried to show that Ely isn’t only a beautiful town, but a town with heart and soul who supports our brothers and sisters as we demand justice for the murders of so many men, women, and trans persons of color. Black lives matter.”
Lah said he is collaborating to continue highlighting human rights issues this summer in Ely.
The march to the park was originally planned to take place along Sheridan Street, a state highway right of way. Prior to the rally, new Ely Police Chief Chad Houde met with Mayor Chuck Novak, Clerk-Treasurer Harold Langowski, and City Attorney Kelly Klun to discuss the issue.
“We talked about the marchers’ First Amendment rights, our concern of the route planned, and the possibility of the march becoming violent,” Houde said in an email obtained by the Timberjay. “I made the determination to contact Ian and discuss his plans and offer a different route to use.”
Lah reached out to the police department to inform them of his plans.
“We had a good conversation,” Chief Houde said. “Ian never planned on walking on the roadway of Sheridan Street. His intention was to use the sidewalk. Ian was very open to changing the planned route of the march from Sheridan Street to Chapman Street.”
Houde said he informed the Sheriff’s Department and State Patrol of the planned march.
“(County Deputy) Lt. Skelton offered to have an extra deputy in the area and he also advised Virginia-area deputies to be aware of the planned march in the event it turned violent,” he said.
According to Chief Houde, the State Patrol had all their troopers in the Twin Cities, but offered to notify the state Department of Transportation if the road had to be closed.
“Ian agreed to stay on the sidewalk and not obstruct other pedestrians or traffic,” he added.