Local residents are organizing a coalition that could be the first of its kind in Jamestown and the Stutsman County area.

The Jamestown Human Rights Coalition is just getting organized with Pam Phillips and George Barnes as two of the organization's leaders. They plan to hold the first public meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, June 14, at the art studio adjacent to The Arts Center in Jamestown.

"We want people to know this is going on," Phillips said.

The idea started with Barnes, who approached Phillips to help get things moving. Along the way, organizers have received some assistance from the North Dakota Human Rights Coalition.

"We've only been working on this a couple of months," said Phillips, who is president of the organization. "We are trying to offer a way for people who feel unheard to have a voice."

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Barnes, who is serving as vice president, said he saw a lot of hate and bias in the community.

"What's important is to inspire and teach people we don't have to be that way," he said. "How do we make a teaching moment for the community?"

Phillips said the organization has a slate of officers and a few members.

"We want to help the community solve problems as they occur," she said. "We want to be a help for everybody, not just minorities."

Phillips said the biggest problem facing the community is intolerance.

"Our community is not very tolerant of people who are not us," she said. "Some of that became evident with mask-wearing in the recent pandemic."

Another problem is people not listening to each other or getting too much information from rumors and social media, Phillips said.

Barnes said he has always been an advocate for people facing challenges.

"We want to educate the people in Stutsman County about people with disabilities," he said. "... maybe we can change the way people treat each other."

How they will accomplish that change is still a work in progress, Phillips said.

"We are not trying to reinvent the wheel or get in people's way," she said, "but we think there is a need to help people handle these things."

Projects for the coalition might include developing a group of speakers to lead discussion groups with area organizations around all of Stutsman County, not just Jamestown, Phillips said.

"We are excited about the possibilities," she said. "The possibilities are endless but we have to have some focus to accomplish anything."