In late July, a new group called Viroquans Enacting Racial Justice (VERJ) organized a Zoom call to raise awareness about incidents of harassment, name calling and physical threats that Viroqua residents of Color had experienced. It is shocking to realize that such incidents happen here.
Some Broadcaster-Censor readers will be familiar with a previous incident of Viroquans organizing to resist intolerant behavior in 1946 on the occasion of the 100th centennial celebrations in Viroqua. Residents rose up in protest to the planned speech by Gerald L.K. Smith, a known Anti-Semite and Anti-Papist, and organized a petition overwhelmingly in opposition. The petition was published in the Censor, and an impassioned debate on the matter followed. Sad to say, the speech went ahead as planned but the debate did have an effect: the La Crosse Tribune, reported that the speech was only composed of “vague statements about hometown, growing up in the countryside, the flag and motherhood rather than the hate-filled screed that were his usual text.”
This account of opposition to Smith is recorded in "Vernon County Heritage: 1844-1994," Vernon County Historical Society Publication, 1994, pps. 175-176.
Now, in the light of these current cases of racial hostility and intolerance, I hope that Viroquans can come together again to call for zero tolerance for such acts within our city and its environs, and to clearly call on our law enforcement officials to cooperate with all to create a Viroqua where everyone is safe.
Maxine Olson, Viroqua
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