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'Hiawatha Believes Black Lives Matter'

George Floyd was killed in 8 minutes and 46 seconds by a White police officer in Minneapolis on May 25.

His death has rocked the nation, leading to protests, riots, looting, political unrest and more as protesters have gone to the streets to bring awareness to what has been termed as a racially motivated killing of yet another Black person by police.

Although the violent protests have been filling the news, what aren’t being told are the stories of peaceful protests, prayer vigils and movements to bring awareness to Floyd’s death and racism in the United States.

George Floyd, 46, was arrested by police after a local convenience store called in a possible purchase with counterfeit money. According to a New York Times report of the incident, Floyd lay unconscious on the street with Officer Derek Chauvin’s knee pressed on the back of his neck. According to the report and video, Chauvin’s knee did not move from Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the last minute even as paramedics were on the scene and onlookers were crying out for him to stop. Chauvin and three other officers were fired and are facing charges in the case.

In Northeast Kansas, there has been unrest concerning the incident, but also peaceful events. In Topeka, Kansas City, Lawrence and Manhattan, local media have told of protesters becoming agitated and violent, stores closing early and barricading windows and doors against possible looters. In some communities, however, there have been very powerful events in the name of George Floyd as local residents want to remember him and bring awareness in his name, but to do so without violence.

In Hiawatha, peaceful protesters lined the sidewalk in front of the Brown County Courthouse Sunday wearing medical masks and holding signs “Justice for George,” “Black Lives Matter” and “We Can’t Breathe” — the last a reference to what onlookers say were George Floyd’s last words “I can’t breathe.”

Also in Hiawatha, a prayer vigil and peaceful protesting event “Hiawatha Believes Black Lives Matter” was Thursday evening around Korthanke Fountain, adjacent to the Hiawatha Police Department in downtown Hiawatha, starting at 5 p.m. More than 100 people came out — many wearing masks for social distancing and holding signs.

Community members were invited to join a prayer vigil “as our nation grapples with our history of systemic racism and its impact on our friends, family, and neighbors. Help us come together to mourn the experiences of BIPOC and pray to offer hope for equality for all,” according to the Facebook event post. Speakers for the event includee a prayer by Pastor Andrew Finch, comments by Brooke Grier, prayer by Shug Cadue and comments by Jason Thomas, both of the Kickapoo Tribe.

Other people have expressed their emotions through other ways. Cindy Kersenbrock Bicker, former art teacher with Hiawatha schools, is now teaching at Gardner Edgerton High School and also is an instructor at Lawrence Arts Center.

Earlier this week, she took her emotions to the canvas. Bicker, who is also a yoga instructor, said she painted a portrait of George Floyd in four hours, noting she did it as her meditation to help her cope with the horrible tragedy of his death.

While police have been the focus of many violent protests, local law enforcement want the community to know they support these local peaceful events and are outraged over the killing of George Floyd.

“I am excited for the prayer demonstration scheduled for tomorrow evening at our fountain. I plan to attend in support of my community,” said Chief John Defore. “I have been a member of this community going on 8 years. My family has made this our home and as such we are proud to be a part of Hiawatha. Hiawatha is a progressive town with family values.”

Chief Defore said, as a police officer, he is saddened by all of the hate in our country.

“As a police department, we do our very best to fight crime in all its forms, but hate crimes of any form are exceptionally bad,” he said. “Nobody likes a bully and all hate crimes are bullies acting out against others, regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or anything else. I was reminded today by someone that I respect very much, In God’s eyes we are all the same.”

Sheriff John Merchant echoed Chief Defore’s sentiments.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to George Floyd’s family and everyone affected by the death of Mr. Floyd,” Sheriff Merchant said. “We are saddened by the great division that we have in this country today and pray for healing and forgiveness to take place so we can all begin to rebuild our great nation. I applaud and respect those who are taking the peaceful approach to mourn and bring awareness, violence has no place in a time like this. I can only speak for my agency and the ethical standards that I demand of myself and my staff when I state that when we perform our duty, I insist that we do not use personal feelings, religious beliefs, prejudices, personal friendships or animosities or anything else that would take us away from making sound, fair judgement when we are performing our duties as sworn law enforcement officers and staff.”

Sheriff Merchant said that as sworn law enforcement officers, the badge represents a symbol of faith, faith that officers will impartially and fairly earn the public;s trust while performing our sworn duties, not use it as an excuse to promote violence, hatred or mistrust.

“When I took office, I swore an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the State of Kansas and this is what I believe in and follow and I expect no less from any other law enforcement agency,” he said. “I ask that we send prayers to everyone involved and try to find a way to keep focused on what is best for our communities and our families.”

Other local communities have also held peaceful events. On Saturday, an organization called Atchison United sponsored a “Justice For George” Unity Walk that brought out 200-300 people.

“This is a new organization that was born during and created after the walk for Amahad Arbery,” Crittendon said. Arbery was a 25-year-old Black man killed in February in a south Georgia community after being chased down by White men, who were arrested just a few weeks ago. “We did not want to just come together as a community over tragedy, we wanted to create an organization where we could have constructive dialogue and create understanding regarding our differences and celebrate our commonalities,” he said. “We have a founding committee that created our mission, purpose, and focus. We now have opened things up to anyone that wants to join us.”

Saturday’s event included speakers, prayer and the singing of “Amazing Grace,” and as one participant noted together they celebrated diversity and commonality.

Also in Atchison, Atchison United youth held a demonstration Wednesday evening downtown at Atchison City Hall. Police Chief Mike Wilson spoke, along with others, and the crowd knelt with more than 8 minutes. There were more than 100 in attendance.

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Filing deadline passed, clerk's office sets for August primary

The Brown County Clerk’s Office announced the final filings for the 2020 local elections on Monday after the noon filing deadline.

Dawn Boyles, assist. county clerk, said that the deadline for all state candidates to certify is June 15. She reminded that all city positions are “non-partisan” — the candidate does not declare a party affiliation and so those positions do not require a primary election no matter how many candidates file. All city positions will be voted on in November in the General Election.

All other positions such as township and county — if they have at least two in the same party that have filed, then those will be decided upon in the August primary election, set for Aug. 4.

Voter registration deadline is July 14, 2020. Anyone can register vote, but if you are currently registered as a Democrat or Republican and you would like to change your party, your party will not change until Sept. 1, 2020. Unaffiliated voters may affiliate up to and on Election Day and vote a regular ballot. First time voters wishing to register to vote may do so until close of voter registration on July 14, 2020. After July 14, 2020, any voter wanting to register for the first time or change their party affiliation from Democrat or Republican to Democrat or Republican must vote a provisional ballot.

Early voting will begin in July with dates as follows:

July 15: 9-11 a.m. at Maple Grove in Hiawatha

July 16: 9-11:30 a.m. at Morrill Community Center and 1-3:30 p.m. at Everest Northfield Community Center.

July 17: Early voting begins at 9 a.m. at the Brown County Clerk’s office.

County and Judicial Filings (Primary and General)

District Judge District 22, Div 2 (4 year term) — incumbent John Weingart (R) has refiled and is running unopposed.

District 2 Brown County Commission (4-year term) — Lamar Shoemaker (R) has filed for the position currently held by Keith Olsen, who did not refile.

District 3 Brown County Commission (4-year term) — Dwight A Kruse (R) has filed for re-election and is being challenged by William Pollock (R).

Brown County Clerk (4-year term): Dawn Boyles (R) has filed for the position currently held by Melissa Gormley, who initially filed for re-election, but withdrew. Boyles is running unopposed.

Brown County Treasurer (4-year term): Betty (BJ) Spiker (R) and Ann Olson (R) have filed for the position currently held by Cheryl Lippold, who did not file for re-election.

Brown County Register of Deeds (4-year term): Nellie Brockhoff (R) filed for re-election and is running unopposed.

Brown County Attorney (4-year term): Kevin Hill (R) has filed for re-election and is running unopposed.

Brown County Sheriff (4-year term): John D. Merchant Sr. (R) has filed for re-election and is being challenged by Dennis Entrikin (R).

Hiawatha City Filings (General Election)

Commissioner of Police (4-year term): Dustin Williams has filed for re-election and is being challenged by L. Evans Woehlecke.

Commissioner of Streets and Parks (4-year term): Becky Shamburg has filed for re-election and is being challenged by Paul Mendez and Nicholas Blevins.

Commissioner of Utilities (4-year term): Toni J. Hull has filed for re-election and is being challenged by Brian Shefferd.

Other Filings

Fairview City Council: Mayor Art Vonderschmidt has filed for re-election and City Council member Doug Bletscher has filed for re-election. The position of John Armstrong’s city council position is up for election, but no one has filed.

Irvin Township: Curtis Blevins (D) has filed for re-election as trustee. Also up for vote is the position of treasurer, currently held by JoLynn Siebenmorgen, who has not filed.

Padonia Township: Bradley Swearingen (R) has filed for re-election as trustee. Also up for election is the position of treasurer, currently held by Jeffrey Gormley, who has not filed for re-election.

Hamlin Township: Victor Menold (R) has filed for re-election as trustee and Joseph Noll (R) has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Morrill Township: Ryan Menold (R) has filed for re-election as trustee and Brent Wikle (R) has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Walnut Township: Zon Middendorf (R) has filed for re-election as trustee and Brett Trentman (R) has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Hiawatha Township: David Pfister (R) has filed for re-election as trustee and is being challenged by Michael Patton (R) and John D. Merchant Jr. (R). Larry Weast has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Robinson Township: Allen Torkelson (R) has filed for re-election as trustee. Bryce Tryon (R) has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Washington Township: Laurence Berger (R) has filed for re-election as trustee and Joe Bunck (R) has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Mission Township: The position of trustee, currently held by Jerry Gifford, is up for election — Gifford did not refile. Rodney Rice (R) has filed for re-election as treasurer.

Powhattan Township: Frank Mueseler (R) has filed for re-election as trustee and Ronald Rettele has filed for re-election as treasurer.

There are also several precinct committee positions up for election.

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Commission addresses Fire Chief issue

The Hiawatha City Commission met on Monday evening and heard from City Attorney Andy Delaney and City Administrator Mike Nichols about the issue of the un-appointed City Fire Chief.

The commission failed to make a motion to appoint Ryan Shockley to the position at a previous meeting, leaving Gene Atland in the interim role until an official appointment was made. Nichols said that in 2016 a change to code was made moving the maximum distance from city limits allowed for an appointed position from 2 miles to 5 to accommodate the potential of bringing Shockley on, but that he has recently learned that due to Kansas Statue 14-1502, that change should never have been allowed. Nichols apologized for the oversight, but stated that the legislation makes it clear that no one outside of 2 miles beyond the city limits may be appointed to a city position. Delaney suggested that the commission take a vote at the next meeting to officially fill the position.

In other business:

The commission also approved a request from Delaney to officially re-open City Municipal Court starting Tuesday, June 2. Delaney informed the Commission that the City Judge had signed off on holding court and a docket had been put together for the day.

Mary Ananzeh was present at the meeting and gave a brief update on progress at the Hiawatha Inn.

The commission heard from Police Chief John Defore and voted to accept a bid from Kustom Radar. Defore was also approved to de-commission the current radars and give them to the Doniphan County Sheriff’s office, as they use the same units and like Hiawatha, are currently unable to purchase parts when repairs are needed. Defore was also approved to solicit applications for a police officer position, as Officer Fee has decided to leave the department to pursue other career opportunities. Also approved for the Police Department was a request to begin demolition on the break room and records storage rooms and solicit bids for renovations, which will allow the department greater ability to store records that must remain in a locked room, and a request to seek opinions from contractors on the state of the department’s roof.

Defore also announced that the National Night Out will be canceled this year, as the only reschedule date is the evening of court, but noted that he plans to bring the activity back bigger and better next year.

Parks and Recreation Director Stacy Jasper presented a request on behalf of the HHS Junior After-Prom committee, which was approved by the Commission, to close Utah Street between 6th and 7th Streets on June 26 for a Prom walk. The event will allow students to park their cars, walk along the courthouse for pictures and to pick up After-Prom prizes.

Jasper also discussed with the commission her plan to leave the Fisher Center closed to the public accept by appointment until at least the next commission meeting on June 15. Individuals may contact the Fisher Center offices with any requests for gym use during the interim.

City Clerk Tish Sims addressed re-opening City Hall, and noted that precautions are being taken but that she would like to continue being open by appointment only for the time being. Sims also brought forward the idea of hardship applications for late utility bills. The commission agreed to the plan.

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Little Hands planning summer golf fundraiser

Little Hands Childcare Center in Hiawatha is planning a summer golf fundraiser.

Board member Lacey Conlin said to mark your calendar for the Aug. 8 event, which kicks off at 9 a.m. at the Hiawatha Country Club golf course.

She said the theme for this year’s tournament is Tees for Trees – which is promoting nature/environmental wellness. Originally, the tournament was scheduled for April 18 in conjunction with Earth Day on April 22 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

There will be many chances for participants to claim a prize at the event this year, including item prizes for Longest Drive(men), Longest Drive(women), Longest Putt, Closest to Pin, and prizes for the team with best environment/nature themed apparel. In addition to the item prizes that can be won, a cash prize can be won for a Hole-in-one on the specified hole. There will be two different raffles: a 50/50 cash raffle (entered to win by playing a game of dice) and a raffle of a bundle of outdoor items; the tickets to enter the raffle for the outdoor items will be $5/ticket or 5 tickets for $20 – tickets will only be sold at registration and throughout the event. Winners for each prize will be announced at the conclusion of the tournament.

Registration fees for this tournament are $200 per 4-golfer team. Registration includes team entry, entry gifts, lunch, and three beverage tickets per golfer. Registration forms are due back by July 24 and can be picked up at the Little Hands Daycare Center located at 200 E. Lodge Rd., Hiawatha. They are to be completed and returned to Lacey Conlin at Morrill & Janes Bank located at 117 N. 7th St, Hiawatha.

Conlin aid Little Hands is a 501©(3) non-profit daycare center that has continued to provide care to Hiawatha and other surrounding communities during the COVID-19 pandemic, apart from a short closure for intense deep-cleaning of the facility. They provide childcare to numerous families and provide steady employment opportunities to local citizens.

Conlin said Little Hands relies heavily on support from the local community in the form of financial donations / sponsorships and attendance at their fundraising events. The center is primarily funded through donations, fundraisers, and income from tuition fees. They currently have multiple spots open, that if filled, would help increase revenue.

Little Hands currently has the following openings available:

1-year-old room: 3 openings

3-year-old room: 15 openings

4-5-year-old room: 6 openings

School Age room: 2 openings

For information regarding enrolling your child(ren) in one of these open positions, reach out to Amy Gibson (Director) at (785) 740-2012. Contact Conlin at for additional information on the golf fundraiser or on how you can donate to Little Hands.