Marchers endure resistance while advocating for equality

by Emily Carey, Staff Reporter

INDIANOLA, Iowa — After nationwide incidents of hate crimes — such as threatening messages to Islamic centers and vandalism to Jewish synagogues — more than 100 students, faculty and community members took to the streets of Indianola on Friday to participate in the March to End the Isms event.

“It’s called special rights, not equality!” one man shouted as the marchers made their way around the Indianola square. Many Indianola residents, though, stopped respectfully to show support and joined the group on their march.

The March to End the Isms is a march to increase awareness of the destructive nature of racism, sexism, ageism, heterosexism and other harmful isms.

The event is held at Simpson every year with the help of the Living the Dream organization and focuses primarily on inclusion and diversity.

This is the event’s 14th anniversary and still proves to be an important staple on campus.

“Although we’re not protesting anything here specifically, we’re simply exercising our right to associate and to be free,” Walter Lain, assistant dean of multicultural and international affairs, said.

Before the event, students, organizations and clubs on campus created signs to display during the march, including slogans such as “we are one world,” “equality is fun for all,” and “love is power.”

“It’s about unity,” Lain said.

The march kicked off with a rally where Lain and Simpson President Jay Simmons delivered empowering speeches.

“We can logically infer that more people feel more empowered to form groups based on hatred towards other people,” Simmons said. “We’re really good at figuring out ways to hate each other.”

“That’s why I’m so grateful that so many of you are out here today because we stand together to say that it doesn’t have to be this way,” he said.

There are approximately 917 hate groups operating in the United States, according to the Hate Map on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website.

“With today’s society, there’s so much going on. I don’t know if there’s ever really been a time that we’ve been free from what we think today to be out of the ordinary,” Lain said. “I think of the history of things going on not only in our country but around the world.”

The spike in active hate groups is what make events like the March to End the Isms all the more relevant.

“When we are carrying our signs, we’re not just carrying it because we’re in Indianola, Iowa, but we are carrying it on behalf of all who are struggling and suffering right now,” Lain said. “Today, I ask that we stand strong and that we stand together.”

After the rally, the marchers made their way across campus to the Indianola square, where they faced criticism but also support from the community.

Despite the backlash they received, the marchers continued to practice their First Amendment right to peaceably assembly as they made their way back to campus, holding their heads and signs high and proud.

Following the event, the marchers returned to Simpson campus to enjoy food, live music and other speakers.