New group strives to get voices heard
Naomi Jirele has drawn on her faith in her most recent venture to help keep local public servants accountable.
Jirele and a friend, Angie Langlie, have formed the United Patriots for Accountability (UPA) in Steele County. UPA, which started in June, is a group that continues to grow every month. In fact, Jirele said she’s had people she didn’t even know show up for meetings at her house.
With 30 in attendance, the group has outgrown Jirele’s house and now meets at Victory Church in Owatonna at least once and sometimes twice a month.
“I felt like the Lord said, ‘Mobilize,’ and that’s what I’m doing,” said Jirele, noting they are approaching 200 members online. “I pray and I pray about this. I’m going to follow what the Lord told me to do and mobilize.”
She said the group is totally grassroots. “We are still very loosely formed,” Jirele said. “It’s pretty informal. We have a loose agenda, we say the Pledge of Allegiance and we pray.”
UPA is hosting a rally, “We Choose Freedom,” Saturday from 4-8 p.m. at the Owatonna VFW. The rally is free and open to the public. There will be various speakers, including Dr. Mike Peterson, a chiropractor from Owatonna.
Only a few months into the organization, Jirele already has a different feel about UPA. “This isn’t just sit around coffee and talk about how to save the world,” she said. “I like encouraging people, and I want to help give them a voice.”
Patriot members, Jirele said, are focused on digging up what’s really going on in America. “We feel a story is being told nationwide, but not the whole story,” she said. “We want to be able to ask questions and feel we aren’t being bullied or scorned. We want to get our voices known and heard.”
Jirele’s group is committed to informing the public about what’s going on with various forms of government. “There are law-abiding citizens not paying attention to the city council, school board and county board,” she said.
On the local level, Jirele is especially concerned with the Owatonna School Board. “We feel they are not listening to us, and we feel like they are humoring us,” she said. “We want them to start hearing us and put action toward what we are saying.”
Jirele and other UPA members recently got involved with public discussions on Critical Race Theory at the school board meetings. “CRT was the big, red flag for me,” Jirele said. “We are trying to start a conversation. We prefer the terms racial equity,” she said, adding no one should be bullied if they state their views.
For Jirele, organizing the patriot movement comes naturally. She has been involved as a volunteer with the Steele County Free Fair, Owatonna Arts Center Board and Little Theatre of Owatonna. She also has served as a youth pastor.
She credits her father, Ron Janning, for being a strong advocate for community involvement over the years. He served on the Blooming Prairie School Board for many years. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree,” she said.
“It has always been my heart to be involved in the community,” said Jirele. “I respected my dad, who taught me if you are going to be a good citizen, get involved.”
Jirele said she resents some of the labels she has been given on social media over the past few months. “It’s very un-American to do this,” she said. “My mind says I’m going with the Lord if we have people wanting to get involved.”
While Jirele doesn’t know where her group will go in the future, she is sure about one thing.
“We want to build neighborhoods that are strong,” she said. “This is about coming together as a community. I have invested a lot in the community that shows my heart.”
We Choose Freedom
Who: United Patriots for Accountability
What: Health freedom rally
Where: Owatonna VFW
When: Saturday, Oct. 16, 4-8 p.m.
Why: Keep public servants accountable