Community members show solidarity with Ukraine

Published 2:07 pm Monday, March 7, 2022

Community members decked in yellow and blue could be seen standing or circling the historic Courthouse Square Saturday morning to decry the war in Ukraine.

As Russian forces besieged Ukrainian cities forcing residents to hunker down or flee for their lives on what was day ten of the Russian, across the world approximately 50 people of all ages appeared at the Square to show their support and protest the violence Russian President Vladimir Putin was inflicting against the Ukrainian people.

Vigil organizer Don Manning-Miller said the goal was to make some visible public expression of support no matter how small it turned out to be.

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“There’s no way, of course, from Oxford, Mississippi that we can do anything directly to contribute to the repulsion of the invasion or anything like that,” said Manning-Miller. “Though we can give money to non-profits that are trying to help, but we wanted to make some kind of public show to declare our solidarity with Ukraine and our opposition to Putin, who’s become an international war criminal.”

Manning-Miller and an affiliated group of like-minded people called the Progressive Citizens Network try to stay keenly aware of politics and current events. The war in Ukraine was one event where many members agreed that something needed to be done.

“It’s clearly been a big expression support for the idea of doing something,” said Manning-Miller. “I think there are many, many, many people in Oxford, Lafayette County and Ole Miss that solidarity with Ukraine is appropriate.”

Some people like Eve Flaschka, a self-identifying Jewish person, and childhood friend Anna Hill also have strong feelings about the conflict and more specifically, Putin’s politics.

“The people of Ukraine have done nothing wrong and they are being attacked for no reason by, essentially, a dictator just because he can,” said Hill.

“There are people who are going through racism, war or genocide and as a Jewish person this is a topic I really need to speak on,” Flaschka said. She and Hill stood next to City Hall holding a sign that read, “Justice for all,” a call back to the last words of the Pledge of Allegiance.

“Americans themselves don’t usually put themselves out in [international] politics or they put themselves out on the wrong side,” said Flaschka. “They only see justice for themselves and not for all.”

However, addressing the problems in Europe may call for Americans to address the problems at home.

Local Gail Stratton is a strong advocate for democracy at home and overseas. Stratton is standing in solidarity with Ukraine and the attack against democracy.

According to her, the best way to create a strong democratic nation is made up of strong, independent institutions like the executive, judicial and legislative branches and the press.

“The critical pieces of democracy are the checks on power — there can’t be one person with too much power which is clearly not the case in Russia,” said Stratton. “We need to be wary of that here at home. Those checks and balances are checks against crazy people.”

Like Manning-Miller, Stratton is aware that locals may not be able to directly help Ukraine in their effort to fight Russia, but she is on the lookout for a non-profit that will.

“I’m listening for the most useful organizations to help,” said Stratton. “I don’t know which organization those would be but I’m willing to help.”

But according to Stratton, the best way to help Ukraine and other countries undergoing struggles in their own community it to support democracy in the U.S.

“It’s important to say, ‘What is democracy and what does that mean?'” said Stratton. “We need those robust kinds of conversations without bullying to discuss that.”