Charlottesville Solidarity Vigil: Spread Love, Not Hate

by Paul Whyte

It was 7:30 pm on Tuesday, August 15 and over 200 people had packed onto the corner of First Street and Second Avenue East in Duluth at the Clayton Jackson McGhie Memorial. The significance of the memorial correlated directly with the reason so many had gathered there. While I’ve certainly seen protests and demonstrations at that location, this was different. The vibe of the gathering was one of somberness and concern as a number of speakers got up to address the very real issue of racism that has never really gone away, but was recently sparked to another level after the incidents that occurred in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday, August 13.

The events on Saturday began as a group of “white nationalists” rallied at a Charlottesville park to protest the taking down of statues commemorating the Confederate Army and generals such as Robert E. Lee. At the same time, people from various backgrounds met at a nearby park to protest racism. While the “white nationalists” had cleared their demonstration with the city, they eventually deviated from the plan and it was not long until both groups met up and things escalated into violence and mayhem. The police called the gathering an unlawful assembly and struggled to control the situation that boiled over right in front of them. Several were wounded, but a 32 year old woman who was there speaking out against racism was killed after being struck by a vehicle driven by a 20 year old Ohio man as he plowed through a number of anti-racist protestors. 

The aftermath of that day has left the Nation reeling and the discussion of what is happening to the United States has reached an apex. The vigil in Duluth was being held to not only heal from Saturday’s events, but also to acknowledge the years of hate and racism spread by white supremacist groups and society in general. The tone was not one of anger, but rather one of love and understanding. 

While there has indeed been high spirited protests held by groups such as Black Lives Matter that have led to arrests in other cities  quite recently, the Duluth Police Department went above and beyond to show respect for the vigil. Officers blocked traffic from passing by the memorial as people gathered, and even Duluth Police Chief, Mike Tuskin, came to speak to the group to show support. 

Out of respect for this occasion, we’re not going to follow the flow of negativity that seems to be going on in our country. There is a definite problem, and one would think that after the civil rights movement and decades of us living together in this “melting pot” that is supposed to be America, that we’d all be more understanding with each other. Of course, it seems that we’re back tracking, and doing so more obviously and recklessly than ever before. The vigil held in Duluth promoted positive growth towards building a solid community between all races, and even the police. While we have to say we are disgusted by these violent current events that raise so many questions, it’s good to see that some are trying to find a foothold where someday we can all just be citizens of earth, respect each other’s differences, and move on to more important things that this planet faces. For right now, this looming dark cloud of hate that should be been done away with in the 40s, the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, all the way to today, is still crawling up through the cracks and dividing us. As far as Duluth goes, a little beam of hope and respect showed through that cloud, and hopefully others will take note and follow that peaceful light. 

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