Chesterton Tribune



Organizers say solidarity march here is a way of doing more

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The organizers of a solidarity march celebrating Juneteenth in Chesterton Friday say the march is their way of doing more amid nationwide unrest and calls for action.

Local residents Becky Uehling and Mark Strudas are behind the event. Uehling is an English teacher and international baccalaureate coordinator at Chesterton High School. Strudas is a lifelong Chesterton resident and U.S. Marine Corps veteran. Strudas, recently accepted to Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, said he’s been active in peace and social justice initiatives for the past 15 years

Uehling said she saw rallies in response to the May 25 killing of George Floyd and renewed calls for police reform happening in other nearby communities, including Valparaiso and Portage, and wondered if anyone would organize something in Chesterton.

Demonstrations of varying size and volatility have taken place nationwide and in several Northwest Indiana communities since white Minneapolis, Minn. police officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Two autopsies have since ruled Floyd’s death a homicide and Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder. Floyd had been suspected of passing a counterfeit $20 bill at a grocery store.

“I thought about it for about a week, then I thought, ‘I’m going to do it,’” Uehling said. She reported she took advice from her friends who are speech coaches and people of color in planning the event.

“As a teacher, I feel like I walk the walk, but I realize that I can always do more. This is my way of doing more. I teach ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and ‘The Bluest Eye’, and we have some great discussions, but this is part of me doing more,” Uehling said.

Strudas was thinking of planning his own event when he learned about Uehling’s and reached out to help. “I was of course focused on what was happening across the country and trying to understand the concerns of the black community,” Strudas said.

Strudas said his concerns turned local when Bob Allison stepped down from the Chesterton Town Council after his Facebook comments on a video of a May 30 Hammond protest drew ire from many in the community. Strudas, for his part, said the Town took appropriate action condemning Allison’s comments, but he nonetheless thought it was important to hold an event showing solidarity with all people around the nation and world.

The march is planned to start at the Chesterton Police Department at 5 p.m. and proceed to Thomas Centennial Park where speakers will address the crowd. Speakers include broker/owner of Better Homes and Garden Real Estate Connection of Crown Point Clarence Webb, Stanford University Senior and award winning poet/filmmaker Angel Smith, and Valparaiso City Council member Robert Cotton.

Local nonprofit organization Indivisible NWI will be on site to register voters, and t-shirts will be available for sale with the proceeds to benefit the Equal Justice Initiative.

The event is meant to be a peaceful and educational show of solidarity, Strudas said. Uehling and Strudas said the event will be kid-friendly, and noted participants must wear masks and practice social distancing to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

Friday’s event is not just a solidarity march, but a celebration of Juneteenth, which commemorates the day that enslaved African-Americans in Galveston, Texas. Were informed of their freedom on June 19, 1865Ñtwo years after the Emancipation Proclamation was signed.

There is a push to recognize Juneteenth as a national holiday. Target, Best Buy, and U.S. Bank made national headlines this week for declaring Juneteenth a company holiday. The American Medical Association is also giving its employees a half-day on Friday and encouraging them to use their afternoons for reflection and learning.

The Chesterton Police Department, in collaboration with Uehling, released a press statement about the march Wednesday. Broadway will be closed between 8th Street and Calumet starting at 5 p.m. Friday. There will be no parking on the north side of Broadway between Calumet and 3rd Street starting at 3 p.m. Parking for participants is available in the lot across from the Police Department and along the street on Broadway past 3rd Street, the CPD release said.


Posted 6/18/2020







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