To the Editor:

After two earlier, peaceful, and well-attended demonstrations in Sylva in support of Black Lives Matter, there were attempts to deter participation in the most recent march by spreading rumors via social media of “outside agitation.”

Fortunately, several hundred people were not deterred. The young organizers were totally committed to a safe, peaceful demonstration, and did an excellent job of leading it. Attendees were very calm and very clear in their opposition to racism in our country. Sylva Police Chief Hatton also did an excellent job to ensure the safety of the demonstrators, including tracking down leads from social media, making home visits and conducting interviews.

As posted on the Sylva Herald website in his Letter to the Community, “Jackson County law enforcement has received NO creditable information that indicates this will be anything less than a peaceful demonstration.” This turned out absolutely to be the case.

The rally following the march included speakers of different races, experience, nationalities and viewpoints, all united in their opposition to racist police violence. There was honest discussion of racism and how it manifests itself in our lives. This was true “community conversation,” which may in some ways be easier in a small town than in a big city. Participants showed respect for each other, including the wearing of masks by practically everyone. Children of all ages were present.

I hope as white people that we will begin to look more deeply into our own hearts to detect racism – and ask ourselves if it is truly in our own best interests to feel hate, resentment and mistrust on the basis of skin color, or if we are better served by unity. I hope that citizens of Jackson County will continue to have discussions about racism, will be emboldened to speak out against it, will respect each other, and will feel encouraged to peacefully assemble.

Louise Runyon,