‘We have a lot of work to do:’ Baraboo mayor says controversial photo created grassroots movement
Community forum planned for Thursday at 6:30 p.m.
BARABOO, Wis. — Residents have organized a community forum for Thursday night in Baraboo following the small city getting international attention for a Baraboo High School prom photo showing about 50 boys, many of whom appear to be doing a Nazi salute.
“We have worked very hard over the last six years to make Baraboo very inviting and inclusive. Obviously, some of that has failed, based on this picture, so we have a lot of work to do,” said Mayor Mike Palm.
For many, that picture being called hateful is all they know about the small city of about 12,000 people.
“Am I disgusted? Absolutely. Am I disappointed? Yes. Am I angry? Yes,” said Palm.
Some Baraboo residents feel the photo has been taken out of context.
“This does put out a negative image, that probably has nothing to do with what really happened,” said longtime resident Liz Nevers.
The photographer has said he told the boys to wave, but one of the only boys seen in the picture not posing told CBS News he believes his classmates knew what they were doing and did it as a joke.
“I don’t feel like I even have enough information yet about what happened that day to have a solid opinion,” said resident Nancy Peidelstein.
Peidelstein wants to hear from some of the other boys about what they were thinking when the picture was taken in May of 2017.
Palm said whatever the intention of the boys, the picture is out there for the world to see.
“I’m not going to downplay it or try to make it go away – it’s there. I think it’s pervasive across the entire country. It just so happens that here there was photographic proof that it occurred. So it’s a wake-up call to us and it’s a call to arms for our population to say this is not who we are,” said Palm.
He said Monday night’s impromptu showing of love on the same steps where the picture was taken is just the start of a grassroots movement to show that the picture does not reflect the city.
Residents have organized a community forum for Thursday night at 6:30 p.m. at the Civic Center to come up with more ideas. Palm said a prominent Jewish couple has offered to host a talk or rally with other religious leaders to educate people.
“These people on their own are coming out and saying, ‘Enough is enough. We want to make sure that Baraboo doesn’t portray this type of image moving forward,'” said Palm.
He said the community, which is mostly white, needs more diversity “to make us cognizant of other races and other cultures and religions.”
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