Appleton, WI: Activists shut down county board meeting, call for removal of transphobic member
Appleton, WI – Over 50 outraged community members gathered outside the Outagamie County Courthouse on May 23 for a protest demanding accountability around Tim Hermes, a member of the Outagamie County Board of Supervisors. The event took aim at Hermes after recent transphobic comments he made during a board meeting became public. A look at his social media reveals a long history of bigotry and racism. The demand put forward was for Hermes's removal from office.
The action was organized by members of Freedom Road Socialist Organization (FRSO), Appleton Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), and a brand new group called Hate Free Outagamie (HFO). Others attended in support, such as faith-based organization ESTHER and Appleton Diverse and Resilient.
Chanting, “Trans rights are human rights!”, attendees proudly held signs advocating for equality and justice. The atmosphere was charged with a collective spirit, fueling the determination to create a more inclusive and welcoming Outagamie County. The rally saw impassioned speeches from activists, community leaders, and affected individuals, highlighting the urgent need for change.
Among those speaking was Jonnie Urban, an Appleton SDS member and local university student. Urban said after the rally that Hermes needed to be removed from office, stating, “He should resign because he is letting misinformation dictate his opinions and his beliefs, and that misinformation is harmful, if someone who has no respect for actual facts is in that position, they can't be trusted to make decisions that actually benefit what we here in Fox Valley need.”
The outpouring of support and passion was evident as over 30 protesters continued from the rally to pack the county board of supervisors meeting that followed to voice their demands directly to those in power. The board attempted to prevent the public from speaking on the issue on the grounds that it wasn't on the agenda, but that didn't stop organizers.
Jay Gibbs, an event organizer and FRSO member, tried to utilize the public comment time to call for Supervisor Tim Hermes' removal, but was shut down. Gibbs was overruled and subsequently escorted from the meeting by sheriff's deputies. The board chair stated that because Gibbs spoke on a non-agenda item, that speech was not permitted. However, the incident only served to galvanize the crowd further, as they refused to be silenced.
What followed was a remarkable display of grassroots activism. The protesters who remained in the room, undeterred by the expulsion, rallied together and effectively shut down the county board of supervisors meeting for nearly an hour. They voiced their demands for justice, chanted slogans and made it clear that their fight for equality would not be silenced or ignored.
In the aftermath of the meeting, the movement to remove Supervisor Tim Hermes from office gained even more momentum. Community members and activists vowed to continue the campaign until justice is served. The call for his removal is not only a response to his transphobic comments but also a larger push for the expansion of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives in Outagamie County and in the city of Appleton.
The collective power demonstrated at the rally and the determination exhibited during the county board meeting serves as a reminder of the strength that lies within grassroots movements. This event has sparked a renewed sense of urgency in the fight for transgender rights and inclusive policies. As the campaign gains momentum, organizers and community members are rallying together, confident that their voices will be heard and demanding accountability from those in positions of power.
The battle against discrimination and bigotry is far from over.