GALLOWAY TOWNSHIP — A large crowd gathered Wednesday evening at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation for a “Rally Against Racism” vigil and demonstration.
The rally was organized quickly but saw a response of more than 200 people carrying signs with messages of peace and anti-bigotry in response to violence last weekend at a rally of white nationalists, Ku Klux Klan members and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The Rev. Dawn Fortune, who was also at an Atlantic City rally against hate held at City Hall earlier in the day, greeted the people in attendance with a prayer.
Guest speakers at the interfaith service included the Rev. Terry O Connor of St. Mark and All Saints Episcopal Church and the Rev. Blake Spencer, of Ocean Heights Presbyterian Church.
“When we fail to speak on what is ugly, we become ugly,” Spencer told the gathering.
People brought signs and clapped and cheered during the messages of unity and anti-descrimination.
Carrying an “end white supremacy” sign, Margaret Lewis said she has seen the events of Charlottesville and other places and felt something has to be done. “These certain things that have been going on since I was a kid, it’s all coming to a head, and maybe there’s something we can do about it,” Lewis said. “I thought it was important for my teenage son to be here. We spoke about educating the youth.”
Maryam Sarhan, who emigrated from Egypt in 2001, addressed the issue of having conversations about prejudice and bigotry. “When was the last time you called someone out on their prejudice, and when was the last time you checked your own prejudice and your own privilege?” Sarhan asked. “We need to get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations.”
“It’s important as a nation we have to start coming together,” said Kellie Cors Atherly, who founded the group Peace Amongst Youth. Atherly came to the event and to show support for the cause to bring people together.
Fortune was happy with the evening’s turnout and wished everyone a safe journey home.
“For some, this is a midpoint, but for others this is a beginning” Fortune said.
The UU Anti-Racism Task Force is planning to participate in an upcoming event in Atlantic City on Sept. 10.