MANKATO, Minn. (KEYC) - If you've driven across the Veterans Memorial Bridge in Mankato around 8 p.m., chances are you've seen one dedicated man on the bridge.
Almost every evening since the death of George Floyd in May, Gene Biewen, 86, has taken up advocating for racial equity.
“It started out as a protest in a sense against the murder of George Floyd by the police, but it’s much more than that to me,” Biewen said. “I guess I see myself as an advocate for change and racial justice. It’s something that’s been important to me a good part of my 86 years. I think my awakening was when I was 13-years-old and Jackie Robinson was brought up to the Brooklyn Dodgers.”
The historic moment in sports had a profound impact on young Biewen.
“I hadn’t even thought of the fact that there were no Black people playing in the major leagues. I thought this is crazy. What sense does that make? Why wasn’t one playing before him strictly because of the color of his own skin,” he said.
“Being informed of what’s going on in the world around you is most important. I read a lot and I watch a lot of things and every since slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crowe, segregation, red-lining, I mean colored people, Black people have not gotten a fair break in my estimation from what I’ve seen and read.”
“This looks like it might be a time we might make some decent progress, he said. “I mean I’ve lived through the Detroit riots, the Minneapolis riots and the Martin Luther King Jr. killing. There were small steps with a lot of those things, but we need a much bigger step and I hope this is it.”
“I guess I’ve been aware of racial issues most of my life, so this seemed natural and if I can make any kind of difference it’s worth it to me.”
Biewen said he doesn’t know how long he’ll continue advocating on the bridge, but he may stick around until election season.