SCHENECTADY — The Rev. Peter Carman stood on the lawn at Emmanuel-Friedens Church in Schenectady and led not only members of his congregation but members of many others in a song.
The song started with a simple phrase repeated three times: “Take a stand.”
That’s what those who filled the church lawn did Thursday evening, they took a stand for love and against hate.
Leaders and members of several congregations gathered for a “vigil of love and solidarity” in response to the violence in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend.
The Rev. Horace Sanders Jr. of Mt. Olivet Missionary Baptist Church in Schenectady called the actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville problematic, heart-wrenching, disturbing, uncomfortable, ugly and evil.
“In relation to what we are seeing happen,” Sanders told the crowd, “we do need to know that there are a mass of people that feel that these things are wrong and that there are people who very much do not want to see things going the way that they are going.
“It’s important now more than ever for us to not sit silently,” Sanders added, “because silence is consent.”
Three people died — two police officers in a helicopter crash and a pedestrian — and dozens were injured last in Charlottesville after a “Unite the Right” rally became violent. White supremacist groups organized the rally in response to the planned removal of a Confederate statue.
The event devolved into chaos as white nationalists clashed with counter-protesters. A car plowed through a crowd at one point, killing 32-year-old Heather D. Heyer. Police arrested James Alex Fields Jr., 20, in connection with the crash.
Thursday night’s march in Schenectady started at Emmanuel-Friedens and ended a short distance away at Veterans’ Park, where more members of local congregations spoke.
Schenectady resident Jamaica Miles stood in the crowd listening to the speakers and carrying her newborn son Roman, 8 weeks old.
She applauded the speakers as her young son peaked at points over her shoulder.
Supporters hold signs at Emmanuel Friedens Church during a rally and prayer vigil for the Charlottesville protests. (Peter R. Barber)
Miles, a local activist, said she joined the crowd with her son to stand in solidarity with others standing up against racism.
“It means absolutely everything that not only I am standing up to do something, but that other people are standing with me and making change,” Miles said.
The Rev. Dustin Wright of Messiah Lutheran Church in Rotterdam helped organize the event through Schenectady Clergy Against Hate.
He said the gathering showed solidarity with Charlottesville and continued the dialog on racism that’s been a part of the country’s collective history.
“We need to do all we can right here in the Schenectady area to combat that and to promote love and not hate,” Wright said, “and to see the face of God in other folks.”
Ang Morris, executive director of the Schenectady County Human Rights Commission, left, hugs Schenectady Police Chief Eric Clifford in Veteran’s Park during a rally and prayer vigil, with community volunteer Shirley Readdean, right. (Peter R. Barber)
In speaking to the crowd, Emmanuel-Friedens Pastor Carman said those at the vigil stood together to say no to white supremacy, to white nationalism and to those those things that threaten the common convictions of human rights.
But, he said, those present were also there to say yes to the unifying forces of possibility.
“We’re here to say yes not only to the possibility, but to the necessity that we become a nation and a city where it doesn’t matter if our children are black or Latino or Asian or of European descent, whether they are male, female or transgender or trying to work it out.
“We want a day where people no longer live in fear.”