Some people call Wednesday hump day. Around downtown Mankato, we call it protest day.
For 10 years a group of protesters, from a handful to about a dozen, have gathered near Jackson Square Park on the corner of Second and Jackson streets to promote peace. They have carried signs marking the conflict of the day, whether it be Iraq, Afghanistan, or more recently the use of drones.
Whether you agree with their way of thinking or not — that violence is not the way to resolve conflict — you have to give the group credit for persistence.
Headed up by Sister Gladys Schmitz of the School Sisters of Notre Dame convent, the group has become a symbol of much that is good in Mankato. This dedicated group has quietly stood, or sat in lawn chairs, cherishing their right to free speech every week. They are reminders that spurring discussion and disagreeing without fear of repercussions are solid foundations of democracy.
Sometimes people drive by and honk in support. Sometimes they yell derogatory remarks out their windows. The group just takes it all in stride. If there was ever an ugly confrontation, it must have been over before anyone in the neighboring newspaper office noticed.
Even relative newcomers to town know about the group. One student alerted the newsroom to the absence of the protesters one week, thinking it was newsworthy when they didn’t show. Turned out his timing was just a bit off and he’d missed them.
They as much as anyone want to disappear, to see their goal reached. There’s little chance, however, that the world will ever rid itself of war and violence. But at least Mankato is a better place because we have people here who care enough to make peace their regular mission.