Over the weekend at a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, to protest the removal of a Confederate statue, neo-Nazis and white supremacists skirmished with counter protesters. The rally left three people dead and many more injured, causing shock among people across the country.
Blessing Osazuwa, a sophomore at Drexel University, was one of the many horrified by what was happening in Virginia and felt she had to do something. Her need to act turned into a rally called Stand Up for Love that was held at Linwood Park in Ardmore on Sunday evening, with about 300 people in attendance.
Osazuwa said she organized the event because of the lackluster response from the Trump administration to the violence in Charlottesville. “These events are so tragic, and the response from the [Trump] administration was not strong enough, and this is an opportunity to show that we are not going to accept this.” Osazuwa said.
To kick off the event, Cantor Lauren Levy, of Beth David Reform Congregation in Gladwyne, led the crowd in singing “This Land is Your Land.”
Following Levy were several members of various activist groups. Tonita Austin, a member of Mothers of Black Sons, presented a poem she wrote in memory of black men murdered by police officers. Anita Friday, founder of Open Hearts: a Path to Racial Healing, spoke about the hatred that black people have experienced not only at the rally in Charolottesville, but also across the country.
Among the many speakers that took the microphone was Democratic Congressman Dwight Evans. “The message that you are sending, even though it didn’t happen here, and it happened in Virginia, you are sending a message that this is not acceptable anywhere,” Evans said to the crowd. “To stand up for love against hate and that we need to work together.”
Following Evans’ speech, State Sen. Daylin Leach took to the stage. “It has been a long time since we have had anyone in a position of national leadership who openly embraces the sort of bigotry and discrimination that I see and have talked about,” Leach stated. He continued by discussing how the Trump administration has helped spur the current climate of racism and bigotry:
This is the direct result of leadership which embraces, which praises, which refuses to condemn, which retweets, which hires as top advisers who openly embrace this sort of bigotry. There are two sides: there is good and evil, and if you’re not on one side, you’re on the other side. It is as simple as that.
The Jewish senator also voiced the troubling prevalence of anti-Semitism taking place in Charlottesville. “As a Jew, to hear people walk through the streets of an American city saying ‘Jews will not replace us’ and carrying Swastikas, that is the symbol of hatred, that is definitely something that affected me deeply,” Leach said.
Montgomery County Commissioner Kenneth Lawrence also spoke about Trump’s insufficient response to the Charlottesville attacks. “There are not many sides in Charlottesville,” said Lawrence, referencing Trump’s comments on the day of the rally when he talked about “many sides” being at fault. “I saw a side that stood for bigotry, hatred, for white supremacy, for anti-Semitism — you stand against that side. There is no other side,” Lawrence said.
A candidate for Lower Merion Township’s board of commissioners, Anthony Stevenson chose not to condemn Trump. Instead, during his speech, he spoke about how the hatred is bigger than one man:
We should not blame Donald Trump for the fact what happened in Charolettesville, because what happened in Charolettesville is an epidemic that was brewing for years and centuries.
Other speakers sidelined politics, opting to focus on community. “There have been so many times where we have had to stand together, and to stand together with each other and stand for what we believe in. Thank you, you’re doing something for your country just by being here.” said State Rep. Mary Jo Daley. Daley said the ability to keep hate out with gatherings like the one at Linwood Park is something special.
On Monday, President Trump issued a statement at a press conference on the economy, where he clarified his initial remarks about the Charlottesville violence, in which he had placed blame on “many sides.” This time, Trump specifically called out white supremcists, neo-Nazis and the KKK for their hateful and racist rhetoric.
But on Tuesday, the president again characterized the white supremacists and counter protesters as being equally culpable for what transpired in Charlottesville.