Protests sparked by the death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in the hands of Minneapolis police, came to McLeod County June 2.
Protesters, many holding signs decrying police brutality and wearing Black Lives Matter shirts, gathered on the lawn just east of the courthouse in Glencoe. They chanted "George Floyd" and in speeches called for justice. In one demonstration, protesters knelt for nearly nine minutes, symbolizing the amount of time former officer Derek Chauvin had his knee on Floyd's neck according to a criminal complaint against Chauvin. Chauvin has been charged with second-degree murder without intent, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter.
"I think we can all agree what happened was horrifying," said Glencoe native Christopher Ross.
He organized the protest first by reaching out to a handful of friends and asking if they would stand on the corner with him. It grew from five to 10 people.
"And then it spread like wildfire," Ross said.
He had hoped for 20 people to join him, but by about 4:30 p.m., more than 100 people were on scene.
Glencoe resident Kenneth Diaz joined Ross in speaking at the protest. He first moved to Glencoe when he was 9, and moved in and out of the city several times. He now calls the city home, and said he was treated with love at the Glencoe-Silver Lake School District. But Diaz told the crowd about violence he had seen against people of color and police in other cities as his voice trembled and his hands shook.
"It's more than us versus them," he said, and petitioned onlookers to work together to end discriminatory practices.
Jorge Gonzalez of Silver Lake was among those who attended the protest.
"I just wanted to come out here and show my daughter that protesting is something we have a right to," he said, "especially for what is going on. Somebody lost their life because of something that's not worth a life. And (I wanted to) show her that we can change the world if we unite as one."
Gonzalez said he had expected a more tense scene after seeing disparaging comments on Facebook regarding the protest. He noted that there is a lot of anger toward policing practices right now, but at the Glencoe protest, the police were looking out for everyone.
Ross, who works with a public defender in the First Judicial District, said he has seen the social injustices people of color face there.
"I can't even imagine what they face from police brutality every day," he said. "I've had white privilege my entire life and some people hear that and think it's controversial. But the fact of the matter is I'm never going to get killed over a counterfeit $20 bill."
Ross said he wanted to stand up for his fellow Americans with the protest. He said that progress had been made, "but here we are. Black people are still being killed by police brutality. I want to be part of the generation that helps end that."
He said he hoped to see the demilitarization of police, and four years of education before police started service, with more emphasis on de-escalation.
The following day, Glencoe Police Chief Jim Raiter said he was pleased with how the protest was conducted.
"Everything worked well. The sponsors of the event worked with law enforcement," he said. "They shared the concerns of myself and the department that we wanted a peaceful protest. ... It went really well."
Raiter said police were aware of concerns about potential agitators, and monitored the situation before and during the event. Ross thanked local officers. Ultimately, he said, coordinating with police helped create a peaceful event.
A press release from the police department says it worked with the McLeod County Sheriff's Office to take public safety measures and to protect the free speech of protesters due to recent activity in Minnesota.
"The police were helping us with the event and were there to ... protect the community," Ross said. "As the community saw, we are peacefully here to share a message and share experiences."
He said he was blown away by the amount of support shown to the protest, and that he hoped to carry on the message by organizing forums. He was still working out the best way to organize a forum.
"I think that it will be crucial in having the conversation going forward," Ross said.