Rally planned in response to cross burning

Concerned about a recent cross burning at the home of a woman and her adult mixed-race children, a Bemidji group focused on race relations will host a community anti-racism rally Thursday.

Members of Shared Vision have scheduled the rally for 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Beltrami County courthouse pavilion.

“We are hoping all residents who have concern about this issue will consider participating in the rally,” event organizer Cory Cochran said in a news release. “We are asking elected officials from Bemidji, as well as White Earth, Red Lake and Leech Lake to speak for two to 10 minutes at this event.

“We are encouraging speakers to focus on moving forward, what we can do in the Bemidji area to promote a climate of support for difference, uniqueness and ethnically diverse peoples,” Cochran said.

Bemidji State University psychology professor John Gonzalez will be the keynote speaker at the rally. Gonzalez has a background in multicultural research methods and statistics.

The cross burning incident was reported at 12:40 a.m. on May 25. A woman reported that the eight-foot cross was propped up against a tree in her yard. She extinguished the fire with a garden hose. Deputies later found racist messages on the cross.

The victim is white. Her two adult children have a black father.

Two Bemidji men were arrested last week in connection with the cross burning. Derek Daniel Barnes, 20, faces felony stalking/harassment charges. Ryan Fairbanks Andree, 19, is charged with felony aiding and abetting stalking/harassment.

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