Vermonters raise their voices against bigotry

MIDDLEBURY — Close to 100 people gathered Monday evening in Middlebury for a rally in solidarity with those opposing white nationalists, in response to the weekend’s tragic events in Charlottesville, Va.
“People needed to share their indignation and dismay,” said Ariane van Driel van Wageningen, one of the organizers of the demonstration and a leader with Middlebury Indivisible.
The rally in Middlebury, held in the new park near the traffic circle, was one of several rallies in Vermont. Burlington, Rutland and Barre also held events in sympathy with counter-protesters on Monday.
Indivisible organizers in Middlebury decided to hold a rally in place of a regularly scheduled meeting and spread the word on social media. Indivisible is a nationwide progressive activist organization.
This past Friday and Saturday, hundreds of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and white nationalists, came together in Charlottesville under the “Unite the Right” banner, ostensibly to protest the removal of a Robert E. Lee statue from Emancipation Park in the home of the University of Virginia.
On Saturday, one counter-protester was killed and 19 wounded when a man who apparently was a white supremacist plowed his vehicle into a crowd of counter-protesters. Two Virginia state troopers died later in the day when their helicopter crashed while they were monitoring the demonstration. Skirmishes between white nationalists and counter-protesters resulted in at least 15 other persons being treated for injuries at the University of Virginia Medical Center. Later that day, Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency and the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was opening a civil rights investigation into the deadly car crash.
Some people criticized President Trump for his tepid response to the violence in Charlottesville and for his insistence on citing violence “on many sides,” and waiting until Monday to condemn white supremacists by name. The President’s response drew praise from Klan leader David Duke and other white nationalists.
Middlebury’s demonstrators held up homemade signs saying, “No to Racism,” “Only Laundry Should Be Sorted by Color,” “Stop Hate, Dump Trump,” “Silence Equals Consent,” and “Kindness, Courage, Hope,” among other sentiments. One woman sported a t-shirt that said “It’s Mueller time,” a play on the popular beer slogan and reference to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into possible coordination between the Trump campaign and Russia during the 2016 presidential election. Many passing drivers waved and honked their horns in support of the demonstration. A few scowled as they drove by.
The tenor of the demonstration was lively and amicable. As demonstrators stood and held up signs, they largely chatted amongst themselves. The gathering drew adults of all ages and teenagers. Middlebury College President Laurie Patton was among those in attendance. Many school-age and younger children, there with their families, alternated between standing with the demonstrators and playing in the park. Among the youngest was an 11-month-old infant.
“We are here to support Charlottesville, the people in Charlottesville who went through a lot of violence this past weekend to do with the white nationalist and white supremacist groups that took over the town violently,” said Middlebury resident and Indivisible organizer Gloria Gonzalez Zenteno. “And we are here to affirm our values — our democratic values.”   PEOPLE FROM THE Bristol and Lincoln area, along with members of the Bridges activist group from Lincoln, gathered on the green in Bristol on Sunday evening for a vigil that organizers said was to stand up for the American they want, and in solidarity and sympathy with the people of Charlottesville, Va., against the hate and violence seen there on Saturday. People gathered with signs beginning at 7 p.m., and the event lasted a little more than an hour.
Photo courtesy of Tom Pollak
Fifteen-year-old Theo Wells-Spackman of Weybridge said, “I think it is really important that we stand up as members of our community for those of us that are being downtrodden by these events, wherever they may be.”
Middlebury resident Beth Diamond observed that she had lost family in the Holocaust.
“I’m opposed to any kind of oppression, racism, anti-Semitism,” Diamond said. “I have relatives who were never heard from again.”
Recent Middlebury Union High School graduate Marcelo Hanta-Davis, home from his first year at college, said: “It’s important for me to be here just to show that I don’t have tolerance for bigotry.”
Toward the end of the demonstration, the group processed through the nearby area, crossing the Otter Creek bridge and back. The demonstration lasted about an hour.
Reporter Gaen Murphree is at [email protected].

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