Nearly 200 people gathered in Rutland Monday night to publicly condemn the racism and violence that erupted during Saturday’s white supremacists rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, that left one woman dead and many others injured.
The 70 minute rally in downtown Rutland was organized by the local chapter of the NAACP.
It followed similar events in Burlington and Hanover, New Hampshire. Thousands have also turned out in larger cities like Boston, Chicago, New York and Toronto.
Many who gathered in Rutland’s Main Street Park held signs, like David Liebtag, of Chester. His white sign spelled out L-O-V-E.
“Because I believe in love,” said Liebtag. “And I’m just outraged that there are people who are racists and bigots and we need to stand up and proclaim the good stuff and not tolerate the racists and the bigots, so here I am.”
Rutland City resident Jane Callahan stood nearby with a sign with a red circle and slash through the word racism. “No racism," she said nodding, "that’s what we’re hoping for one of these days."
“I’m just here in solidarity with the counter-protestors in Virginia,” Callahan said standing with a cluster of friends, “because this just has to end at some point. This has been going on too long and people have to come out and stand up.”
Tabitha Pohl-Moore, President of the Rutland-area NAACP, thanked the crowd for coming out on such short notice and reminded them it’s not easy to do the right thing.
“To my black and brown brothers and sisters who are here tonight, I want you to look around, all six of us…” she said to laughter.
“The white folks here are trying to do the right thing,” she continued. “Some of them know what to do and are doing their best to dismantle the system of white supremacy. Others are here, perhaps for the first time, trying to figure out what to do and where to start.”
Pohl-Moore called for a moment of silence to remember 32-year-old Heather D. Heyer, the counter-protestor who was killed at the Charlottesville rally as well as the 19 who were injured, when a 20-year-old, described as a Nazi sympathizer, drove his car into a crowd of counter protestors.
“When your white friends or family refer to folks as 'they' you need to enquire more about it and figure out what’s at the root,” she reminded those in the crowd. "Always seek to educate and push for change.”
'It’s about doing the right thing because it is the right thing," she said. “Interrupt the hate you see and do it for yourself. Because when you truly understand white supremacy, you understand that it hurts white people too, and it’s up to you to figure out how to stop it.”
Retired Rutland Rabbi Doug Weber said he was on vacation in Maine when he saw the news of the violence in Charlottesville.
“I thought this had gone away,” he said sadly. “Naively, I thought these people were dug into their worm holes, but for some reason they’re crawling out and decent people have to stand up and not let them come out in the sunlight.”
Telling the crowd he wished he could sing reggae, he told those at the vigil to remember the words to one of Bob Marley's classic songs: "Get up, stand up, don’t give up the fight.”
Before the crowd left, they joined hands, formed a circle and sang, "We Shall Overcome," rising their hands together on the last word.