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City Plans Parade to Thank Meatpacking Workers

'We wanted them to feel the warmth of the community around them and make them smile'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 19, 2020 6:03 PM CDT

(Newser) – A South Dakota city that was among the earliest to be hit by a major coronavirus outbreak in a meatpacking plant is planning a parade to thank workers, who organizers say have been unfairly stigmatized. Organizers of Wednesday's event in Sioux Falls say they hope hundreds of people will show up to hold signs of thanks outside a Smithfield Foods pork plant that closed after hundreds of employees were infected with COVID-19, the AP reports. Mayor Paul TenHaken is among those planning to attend. Parade organizer Natalie Eisenberg says it's an attempt to bring a positive message to the employees and reach out as neighbors. They will also be paying for a billboard to thank the employees.

"We wanted them to feel the warmth of the community around them and make them smile," Eisenberg says. Some workers and advocates for immigrants were angered when Gov. Kristi Noem appeared on Fox News on April 13 and seemed to place blame on the living situations of Smithfield employees, many of them immigrants. Other elected officials made similar remarks. Noem later said she meant only that the focus of health officials had shifted to stopping infections in the community after the Smithfield plant closed. "We certainly thank them for their work and their dedication providing for our nation's food supply," she said at a press briefing on Tuesday.

(Read more South Dakota stories.)

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