Jan 21, 2014 - By Alejandra Silva, Staff WriterTraffic on North Federal Boulevard in Riverton came to a halt as hundreds rallied Monday for the Martin Luther King Equality Day beginning at Riverton City Park.
Students, school staff, families, local government officials, tribal leaders, drummers, community members and even some four-legged friends journeyed on foot to boost the spirit of equality and support unity in the county.
In 2002, the World Church of the Creator announced its intent to establish its headquarters in Riverton. This group was identified as a "national hate group," and in 2003 the Wind River Unity group formed to oppose it.
Representatives from many groups joined to organize the first MLK March that year. More than 700 marchers took part. After a speech, then-mayor John Vincent was presented with a "unity blanket" that represented the four colors of man coming together in Fremont County.
"That blanket still hangs at City Hall today," Vincent told the crowd Monday. "Luckily we were able to prevent that (group from) coming here."
The World Church of the Creator never established a permanent presence in Fremont County.
Since that first walk, the county has continued celebrating Equality Day.
The American Legion Richard Pogue Post 81 color guard from Fort Washakie and Post 86 from Ethete led the march, with tribal drummers following. A lectern waited at City Hall for Central Wyoming College diversity coordinator Sergio Maldonado, Riverton Mayor Ron Warpness, Eastern Shoshone Business Council chairman Darwin St Clair, State Rep. Patrick Goggles, D-Ethete, Fremont County Commissioner Keja Whiteman, and others who reminded the audience the reason for marching and the importance of being united.
Vincent touched on the subject of the Environmental Protection Agency's decision of Riverton falling within the exterior boundaries of the Wind River Indian Reservation for the apparent purpose of air quality monitoring. Vincent said he feared the agency's ruling has built hostility among residents of the county that he described as "meritless." He said the ruling status was not a "power grab."
"It's due to a document many of you didn't even know existed," Vincent said. "All kinds of stories have been concocted on what that means for jurisdiction, land titles, and such. (It's) all kinds of baloney."
Warpness encouraged everyone to control their personal behavior.
"I see each person as an American and a citizen of this great country," Warpness said, adding that everyone has an obligation to teach children right from wrong.
"Stop this talk of who is right and who is wrong," St. Clair asked of the crowd. "When we are united we become much stronger."
Goggles thanked the Riverton Police Department for leading the way and setting up the locations. He also thanked the veterans, drum group, organizers, and participants who followed King's message of fighting for a cause without violence.
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