Local 'Love Wins' rally protests violence in Charlottesville
Dylan Weber of Grand Forks doesn't let her two young children watch violent shows on TV, but after she saw the brutal fighting between white nationalists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., recently, she felt the need to talk with them...
Dylan Weber of Grand Forks doesn't let her two young children watch violent shows on TV, but after she saw the brutal fighting between white nationalists and counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Va., recently, she felt the need to talk with them about it.
"It was a hard conversation to have," she said.
When she witnessed the turmoil, she said, "I felt angry, helpless and scared-and I wanted to do something with my children."
So she and her husband, Tim Rolly, and their kids-ages 3 and 7-joined about 70 others who gathered Saturday for a walk called, "Love Wins: Solidarity Rally for Charlottesville."
"It may sound funny, but I wanted to do this as a family," Weber said. "I wanted to help them understand how to speak out when they see people fighting back against equality."
She wants her kids to know "we have privileges because of the color of our skin-and, for our son, his gender," she said.
The walk, organized as a peaceful protest of the violence in Charlottesville, started at Kannowski Park, just south of downtown, proceeded north to the county courthouse and ended at Town Square. Grand Forks police vehicles, with lights blinking, parked at a few intersections to protect the participants.
As they walked, members of the group chanted in unison phrases such as "This is what democracy look like," "Love wins" and "North Dakota is the Peace Garden state."
They held signs with messages that read "Peace for all," "North Dakota united against hate" and "Violence is not speech."
On Aug. 12 in Charlottesville, protesters clashed in a violent, bloody brawl over the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a Confederate general.
The violence prompted Virginia's governor to declare a state of emergency and ask the National Guard to join the police in subduing the chaos.
One woman died and about 20 people were injured after a car was driven into a crowd.
One of the leaders of Saturday's walk in Grand Forks, Nabil Suleiman, president of the Islamic Center and a UND professor, said he hoped the rally would "try to send a message in our community that we love each other and accept each other. ... We do not condone any violence or hate."
"There are so many things going on right now" involving violence by white supremacists, Suleiman said. "We don't want this to be repeated here."
When asked if he worried about that, he said, "There are no guarantees it won't happen here."
Rabbi Jamie Serber, one of the leaders of the event, said she saw the walk as a way to create "greater awareness of the unification people have here against hate, racism and xenophobia. "We don't tolerate acts of hate that took place in Charlottesville and other places around the country."
Serber and her husband, Brad Serber, recently moved here from Pennsylvania after he accepted a position on the UND communications faculty.
Another leader, Chad Brucklacher, pastor at Christus Rex Lutheran Campus Center at UND, spoke when the group stopped at the courthouse. He read from a statement issued by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
"Racism fractures and fragments church and society," he said. "(In our society) white people have been favored and hold unequal power-socially, politically, economically ... Racism robs people of authentic relationships ..."
He encouraged listeners to "look inward and ask ourselves what we can do to confront racism. I pray that we will choose love over hate, regardless if we are religious or not."
Later, while walking, he said he hoped the event would build awareness.
"Unfortunately, I have seen examples of racist treatment of students by other students," he said. "Racism is alive and well."
Judy and Barry Milavetz of Grand Forks were also among the throng of walkers.
"It's important that Grand Forks supports people all around the country who want to make it clear that we live in a place where freedom is important, and people can belong and have rights despite religion, color of skin or sexual preference," Judy Milavetz said.
"Like many others, we were horrified by what happened in Charlottesville, and the discussion afterward-at the highest level of our government-that was not, what are we going to do different, but about who was good and who was bad," she said.
"It's important that we all speak together, upholding democratic values. We don't get a free pass to be intolerant just because our government has been condoning various types of intolerance."