Unite Keystone Heights postponed by COVID-19 … again

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KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – While many residents and members of the Keystone Heights City Council agree there’s a need for an open and honest conversation about social issues, all sides agreed to put off Unite Keystone Heights for at least another month.

The council agreed to defer a request from five current and former minority students at Keystone Heights until the threats posed by COVID-19 subsides.

More than 20 residents sent emails and made calls to Monday night’s virtual meeting. Most supported the rally and mile-long march that originally was scheduled for Aug. 8, but they said the risks of spreading the virus was a greater concern.

Zac Thomas, Unite Keystone Heights organizer, agreed.

“We would definitely agree to a postponement,” he said. “That is something we would agree to.”

The rally to address claims of discrimination and prejudice at Keystone Beach/Geneva Beach originally was planned for July 4, but organizers and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office worked to push the date to August.

There were social media posts that vowed to turn the rally into a protest. Vice Mayor Steve Hart asked Taylor if his group was working with any other outside groups.

Like others, Hart was concerned about retaliatory responses from other groups.

Taylor assured the council the rally is homegrown.

“We all live here. We are not coordinating with any other outside groups or organizations for this,” he said. “It was intended strictly as an event for our local community to come together. We chose Keystone Beach because that’s the most well-known park and gathering spot in our area. We felt it would be most appropriate for anybody in the community, regardless of their age, who wanted to come join us and join in on the discussion.”

The council said it would revisit Taylor’s request at every monthly meeting until it’s safe.

“We canceled out an abundance of caution because of COVID-19 and I am not going to say ‘Let’s not have the Unite Keystone.’ Can we please postpone it again until we get a better grasp on this virus and see what’s going to happen? We’ve left the entire month of October open as a possibility,” said councilman Larry Peoples. “Let’s see what happens.”

The council also pushed for the cancelation of the Kiwanis Club’s rummage sale on Aug. 1 and the Meet Your Neighbor celebration on Sept. 5 – both in response to COVID-19.

In other business, the city agreed to extend its State of Emergency to Aug. 3. Council also authorized newly-appointed city manager Lynn Rutkowski to seek agreements and permits for as much as $275,000 the city will get from the CARES Act.

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