It's been a difficult week for Minnesota. But despite those tragedies, there 's much to be celebrated in this part of the state. So in the first of what's we hope to be many Cheers and Jeers columns, here goes….
We send up a cheer for the peaceful protests in Owatonna and Faribault this weekend. There were definitely some tense moments at both sites and one arrest of a Faribault protestor who tried to start a fire Friday night, but overall the gatherings allowed demonstrators to pour out their anger and their frustration — not just about the death of George Floyd on Memorial Day in Minneapolis, but the systemic racism that's woven into the fabric of our society.
In those protests we also saw hope. In Faribault, police, particularly Chief Andy Bohlen, milled among the protestors Friday night, letting them know that he and his officers fully support their right to protest peacefully. Sunday's protest in Owatonna ended with an 8½-minute tribute on bended knee to Floyd, who died shortly after a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd's neck for that same length of time.
Compassion and understanding from our officers — it's something we all needed this past weekend.
In that same vein, we've got a cheer for the Faribault School Board, which last month agreed to invite different members of the district's diverse communities to participate in its meetings and give input on topics up for discussion.
Yes, the meetings are open to the public and they're broadcast on the local cable access channel, and the board welcomes input from residents. But this is an invitation and that speaks volumes about its willingness to listen to different perspectives.
In the last few years, Faribault has become increasingly diverse. According to the Minnesota Department of Education, 36% of the district's students were non-white in 2019-20. But among members of the School Board, school administration and superintendent's cabinet, there's only one.
That lack of representation has sometimes created confusion and misunderstandings between some parents and students, and the district. These conversations, we expect, will open new lines of communication, and strengthen our school district and our community.
Lastly, we can't help but issue a rather feeble jeer at the loss of our beloved fairs. First, the Minnesota State Fair board put the kibosh on the 2020 event over the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. That was quickly followed by a long line of other county fairs, including Rice and the biggest county fair in the state, the Steele County Free Fair.
We're going to miss our fairs, the rides, the 4-H exhibits, the animals and all that food on a stick. But as hard as those decisions are for us to swallow, we're certain they were even more difficult for those who had to pull the plug.
So while we've jeered, we've also got a cheer for those men and women who put the health and safety of their communities above all else. We're disappointed, but grateful that you're looking out for us.