More than 200 people gathered in West Market Square to show their support for the victims of the weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, where clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters turned deadly on Saturday.
Sunday’s “inclusivity rally” in Bangor was organized by a coalition of area civil rights and peace groups, including the Bangor Racial and Economic Justice Coalition, the Peace and Justice Center of Eastern Maine, the Maine People’s Alliance, the Sunlight Media Collective, and Food AND Medicine.
Susan Brown of Bangor was among those who turned out to stand in solidarity with those fighting against hate and racism.
“I think it’s time for all of us to stop being apathetic, stop thinking it’s someone else’s problem, stop thinking it’s going to go away because it’s not going to go away,” she said.
David Weeda, who was a national at-large delegate for Bernie Sanders during last year’s presidential election, traveled from Bucksport to take part in the vigil.
“When I see thousands of people gathering to spread hatred, fear, we need to respond with many, many more thousands gathering to express solidarity for the goodness of our humanity,” he said.
Speakers at the Bangor event included elected officials and clergy, community activists and representatives of area minority organizations, to name a few.
Michael Alpert of the Greater Bangor branch of the NAACP was among the first speakers to address the gathering.
“So called white supremacists have no place in our society. No place at all. Not even at the fringe. They are the obstructors of freedom, the low life, the thugs and they must be confronted with laws and lawful action that forbid their aberrant viewpoint from gaining any measure of legitimacy,” he said.
Bangor City Councilor Sean Faircloth also was among the first to step up to the podium.
“None of us knew the name Heather Heyer yesterday morning but now she is an American hero,” he said of the 32-year-old woman who was killed Saturday while protesting a white supremacy march.
“Something she wrote on her Facebook page just before she died is something we should all remember: If you are not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” he said
Numerous other speakers followed.
Organizers said the Bangor gathering aimed to send the message that “all neighbors are welcome in Maine communities.”
The anti-hate protests in Maine began on Saturday night, when about 50 people gathered on the Eastern Promenade to stand up for the victims of the violence in Virginia, the Portland Press Herald reported.
Roughly a dozen more rallies took place Sunday in Sanford, Skowhegan, Rockland, Bar Harbor, Machias, Houlton, Bangor, Cumberland, Norway and Monument Square in Portland, according to the group Indivisible’s website. Many other vigils were held Sunday across the country.
Neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters at the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville Friday, where they planned to stage a large rally to “take America back,” and on the streets of Charlottesville Saturday morning, according to The Washington Post.
The chaos turned deadly on Saturday when a car plowed into crowds killing one and injuring 19 others, The Post reported. The driver of the vehicle, James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio, was arrested and charged with one count of second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit-and-run attended failure to stop with injury.
Two Virginia state police officers also died in a helicopter crash outside the city while patrolling the rally, according to The Post.
All four members of Maine’s congressional delegation weighed in on the weekend’s events in Virginia.
Sen. Susan Collins on Twitter condemned the violence in Charlottesville as “domestic terrorism.”
“Hatred, racism, and bigotry have no place in our country,” she said.
Sen. Angus King in a tweet called the weekend violence “unacceptable” and “un-American,” saying that is has “no place anywhere in our country.”
Rep. Bruce Poliquin said on Twitter that he was “saddened” and “disgusted” by the “disturbing acts of terrorism that took place in Charlottesville. There is no place in our country anywhere for racial hate and vicious violence.”
Rep. Chellie Pingree also tweeted that “Hate has no place in #Maine or anywhere else. Saddened & disturbed to see what’s happening at @UVA.”