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Valentine's Day marked by peace and love vigils

Valentine's Day marked by peace and love vigils

Events hosted in Colonie, Saratoga Springs
Valentine's Day marked by peace and love vigils
Heather Sheeley, of Saratoga Springs, holds a "Love" sign at the Valentine's vigil on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017.
Photographer: ERICA MILLER

Grandmothers waving protest signs and people gathering after dusk with candles and unity signs may not be chocolate, roses and Hallmark cards, but they are increasingly activities that are associated with Valentine's Day.

There were such vigils Tuesday in two local communities.

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In Colonie, Grannies for Peace demonstrated with anti-hate and pro-immigrant signs at the town's busiest corner during the lunch hour. And after dark, dozens gathered for a peace and unity vigil in Saratoga Springs' Congress Park.

The grannies have been marking Valentine's Day with anti-war, pro-peace or pro-veterans vigils for at least a decade -- and they think it's a great day to do so, even when the messages are as politically specific as "Grannies Welcome Refugees," or supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.

"Valentine's Day is the day to celebrate love, and if there's anything about grannies -- grannies are fierce, but they're motivated by love," said Mabel Leon, a longtime peace and justice activist who is one of the leaders of Grannies for Peace.

She said 27 people came to Tuesday's vigil at Central Avenue and Wolf Road in Colonie.

"We went to Wolf Road because there was a steady stream of traffic, and we had a steady stream of honkers supporting us," Leon said.

In Saratoga, the Congress Park gathering was a first, with word of it spreading through Facebook and other social media.

Terese Lesser, one of the organizers, said she's tried not to be explicitly political, though she acknowledged many people she knows have concerns about or are discouraged by the election of President Donald Trump. She said the idea of a Valentine's vigil came through a Facebook post, but the concept of a love, hope and unity vigil seems to have caught on.

"I just really wanted to move a positive energy out there because a lot of people feel frustrated, feel discouraged," Lesser said. "I don't want any group to feel marginalized."

Vigil participants opposed Trump's temporary ban on immigrant from seven Muslim-majority countries, and they support refugees and immigration.

"New people are coming here. This is important. This is what makes us stronger -- celebrating what makes each of us unique," Lesser said.

Reach Gazette reporter Stephen Williams at 395-3086, [email protected] or @gazettesteve on Twitter.

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