With songs and prayers and candles, hundreds gathered Monday night on the Morristown Green to express solidarity with the good people of Charlottesville, VA –and to stand against the white supremacists who brought hatred and violence to that city over the weekend.
“It’s almost like you can’t believe that this is what’s become of our country,” said Dennis Brennan, a retiree from Morris Township. “We just have to stand together. This is not our country. This is not what it’s supposed to be about.”
Nudrat Ayub, a medical doctor from Mendham, attended her first vigil.
“If we don’t stand up now, I don’t know what’s going to happen to our future generations,” said Ayub, a Pakistani immigrant who brought her children to the Green on Monday.
Though Virginia was targeted over the weekend, “it could be any of us, any time. So we have to stand up,” Ayub said.
Organized by the immigrant advocacy nonprofit Wind of the Spirit, the gathering drew about 400 people, according to estimates by Morristown police.
Many placards preached love, and the event was peaceful. Yet some demonstrators scarcely could contain their scorn for President Trump, who failed to strongly repudiate the Klansmen, neo-Nazis and white supremacists who descended on Charlottesville.
“We have a lack of leadership at the top of our nation,” said Mayor Tim Dougherty, urging demonstrators to counter an alt-right rally in Texas on Sept. 11, 2017.
Declaring “enough is enough,” Dougherty added it’s time for Republicans and Democrats in Washington to shelve their differences and heal the nation.
“Fix healthcare! Don’t try to kill it. Fix it! Fix our roads! Fix the tax injustice… work together. Stop this bull—-! It’s just not right,” he thundered through a megaphone.
Slideshow photos by Bill Lescohier and Kevin Coughlin
There were tears, too. Valerie, 10 1/2, of Morristown, choked up while explaining why she came to the vigil.
“I’m afraid of my dad getting deported, and leaving this country. I’d like my dad to stay here to be with us and stay with our family,” Valerie said, tears trickling down her face.
If her father is sent back to Honduras, “it would be horrible” for herself, her four brothers and their mom. “I don’t want to think about it,” she said.
Activists opposed to Trump’s “deportation budget” on Monday began a week-long series of protests outside the Morristown office of Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-11th Dist.), who chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee.
“We’re supposed to be a country of love, of welcoming,” said Cedar Knolls resident Debbie Harris.
Her parents–Jamaican and Cuban immigrants–would have been turned away under stringent criteria endorsed by Trump, and she never would have been born, she said.
“And that’s not fair. That’s not right.” Harris was so shocked by Charlottesville that she felt compelled to come to the vigil. “I just have to come out here to express myself, and let this country and our lawmakers, and let people know, we’re not going to tolerate this anymore.”
Video: Standing Against Hate, after Charlottesville:
CANDLES AND CONCH SHELLS
Members of Wind of the Spirit blew into conch shells–which signals peace in Latin America–to start a Jericho walk around the Green. Seven laps emulated the Biblical story, in which the Jews eventually brought down the walls of Jericho.
Children from the Wind of the Spirit summer camp sang We Shall Overcome, and prayers were offered in Spanish and English.
The Rev. Alison Miller of the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship prayed for Heather Heyer, the 32-year-old Charlottesville paralegal killed when a car plowed into a crowded street. An Ohio man has been charged with second-degree murder. At least 19 others were injured by the crash.
Brian Lozano of Wind of the Spirit blamed last year’s presidential election and its aftermath for legitimizing “an overt kind of racism, something that we hadn’t seen in a very long time.”
The healing will start when Americans from different camps break bread together, Lozano said.
“It’s white people and black people and Hispanic people and Indian people, Muslim people, trans people, gay people — all people — coming together and realizing that we’re just humans. And that all we want to do is live in peace, just like everybody else wants to live.”