Weekend Events Mirror National Condition
On the day the U.S. celebrated once again launching a manned spaceflight, events in Evansville provided a microcosm of the challenges we’re also facing. It was a beautiful spring day, Saturday, May 30, 2020.
8am, Saturday, May 30, 2020.
Christian Fellowship Church executive pastor Mike Deeg is giving volunteers a pep talk for a food giveaway event that isn’t supposed to start for another hour. Deeg says he started handing out boxes of food to families waiting in line as soon as he arrived at 7am.
Cart after cart rolled through the entrance of the church, loaded with food items for pickup at the curb.
CFC members and staff stayed busy into the afternoon, loading about 650 boxes into vehicles, two of which were driven by Nicole Lisembee of Evansville and Jerry Hobdy of Chandler.
Lisembee said, “We have no one working in the house for about two months now. I have three kids at home."
Hobdy said, “I’ve lost my job because of the COVID-19 and I have a house of five. We only have one income and it’s hard to make ends meet. I’m just trying to feed my family.”
Food insecurity made profoundly worse by pandemic-forced unemployment.
Mike Deeg tried to put it into perspective.
He said, “We trust our checkbook or we trust our job or we trust a bank account, and all of a sudden, we’re out of work for ten weeks and we’re in trouble. Honestly, the material blessings that America has, we’re an incredibly blessed country and it’s easy to trust in things that are less than faith.”
Directing traffic into the pickup area is Kathy Haymond, cheerfully greeting recipients even as she’s experiencing a growing realization of the extent of food insecurity here as vehicle after vehicle rolls past.
She said, “This sure is an eye opener to the need in the community. For people from all walks of life."
Haymond paused for a long moment, then said softly, They’ve fallen on hard times.”
It’s just after nine am on Saturday, May 30, 2020, the planned start of the food giveaway event.
12pm, Saturday, May 30, 2020
It’s noon on a gorgeous spring day. At the Four Freedoms monument, with the Ohio River as a backdrop, several hundred people gather because yet another black man, George Floyd, has died in police custody, the tragedy captured on video in broad daylight in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
Jacob Dillion of Vincennes and T’keyah Axton who lives in Princeton, have driven to Evansville to add their voices to the message that will come from this gathering.
Dillion said, “I think now’s the final tipping point. You know, people are tired and scared and they want change. I think it’s time for them to get that change.”
Axton said, "I have two little girls. I’m uncomfortable in my own skin and being picked on in school. I don’t want them to grow up being picked on in school because they’re half black. Does that seem fair to you?”
The mood was peaceful and respectful. Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke was there. So was District 77 Indiana representative Ryan Hatfield.
Organizer Ebon Ellis says the rally was supposed to conclude at the Four Freedoms monument, but somehow, the idea began circulating that they should march to the Civic Center.
(Approx.) 2pm, Saturday, May 30, 2020
Evansville police appeared in riot gear. Mounted officers were called. By mid-afternoon, the organizers of the social justice rally had gone home. Those who remained got louder and angrier until first one protester, and then another, tried to cross the police line. With shields deployed, police pushed forward aided by the mounted officers. What had been a peaceful social justice rally was co-opted by those determined to provoke a police response.
Rondell Joseph tells what happened then.
He said, ““It didn’t really start to get ugly and confrontational until after the five o’clock hour. But when that first blow hit, people saw it happen started to run, scatter, tried to distance themselves quickly. The police said, right before about 5:30, they would arrest anyone for unlawful assembly.”
6pm, Saturday, May 30, 2020
The crowd was dispersed and four people, one of them a juvenile, have been arrested by Evansville police.
Food insecurity made profoundly worse by pandemic-forced unemployment. And, a peaceful social justice rally is co-opted by those determined to provoke a police response.
The events of Saturday, May 30, 2020 in Evansville brought our common condition into sharp focus. We’re all affected by the pandemic and we’re all affected by an attitude that prompts a police officer to allegedly kneel on the neck of an unresisting person of color until he dies. In a way, food insecurity and racial bias are both social justice issues.
But there is hope. At the social justice rally, T’keyah Axton, mother of two young daughters, spoke with passion and commitment for their future. She said, “We’re just getting started. I mean, if you think about it, this is not the first time something like this has happened. We’re in the middle of a revolution. If we keep coming together like this, I believe some bigger- it may take a few generations, but this will start, this will help right here.”