Hate groups, free speech discussed at Wausau town hall - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Hate groups, free speech discussed at Wausau town hall

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

Hate groups, protests and free speech were at the forefront of a town hall meeting in Wausau Wednesday night.

People for the Power of Love along with the YWCA hosted a 'Community after Charlottesville' town hall meeting from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Wausau YWCA.

"We understand that we can come together as a community and make a much greater impact," said organizer Christopher Norfleet.

Organizers of the event said the deadly protests in Charlottesville have brought fears in the community of the possibility of hate groups coming to central Wisconsin.

"Unfortunately this type of atmosphere can happen anywhere and we can't assume that there's nobody in this community that has that belief or that attitude," said Norfleet. "In this community I have seen confederate flags, I've also seen a sense of not being able to communicate and that's the scariest thing, I've always believed silence is deadly."

Several dozen community members showed up and asked questions to community leaders and activists.

"To me the time to educate the community, what we're going to do and how we're going to do it and what challenges we face are not in the middle of an emergency or in the middle of an event it's before that event took place," said Wausau Police Captain Matt Barnes.

A main concern for some was whether or not Wausau would be prepared if a protests similar to Charlottesville happened in Wausau.

"I want to say yes I think it is, between our law enforcement, the legal community, I believe we are set to go," said Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke.

Barnes said that when they do experience hate crimes in the area it's an isolated incident and doesn't happen very often.

"We're very fortunate that we don't have a significant number of hate crimes reported to law enforcement," said Barnes.

Community members said they think racism and hate has improved in Wausau.

"This town is headed in the right direction I believe," said Wausau resident Travoi Tuttle.

Norfleet said he hopes to hold more town hall meetings in the future.

Many agreed that it was a needed conversation that was done respectfully.

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