SARATOGA SPRINGS — Nearly 100 people stood in front of the post office on Broadway on Wednesday evening with signs that read, "Standing on the Side of Love" and "Love Trumps Hate."
Members of the Saratoga Peace Alliance held a Valentine's Day vigil in response to KKK fliers that Saratoga Springs residents found on their cars on Sunday. The fliers invited them to join the Loyal White Knights, an active faction of the Ku Klux Klan.
Three or four different fliers were placed on cars parked in the north side of the city, including on Van Dam, Clinton and Alger streets, and Greenfield and Woodlawn avenues, according to police Lt. Robert Jillson.
The fliers had messages that said such things as “Love Your Own Race,” “Stop Homosexuality & Race Mixing," "Civil rights failed." Some also said that black people will only “dampen progress for white society” while using the N-word.
On Monday, the Saratoga Peace Alliance handed out fliers throughout the city which read, "All peoples are welcome in Saratoga Springs. Ideas and groups that foster hate and violence are not.”
City resident Stephen Goldblatt said he decided to attend Wednesday's vigil to stand up to bigotry.
"It's on the rise," he said. "This last year, the president has spoken with a bully-type of attitude and doesn't address acts of hatred.
"We have to make a statement."
Angela Kaufman traveled from Albany for Wednesday's vigil.
"The message of hate needs to be combatted with true love and solidarity," she said.
Kaufman said while she was upset about the KKK fliers, she wasn't surprised.
"Over the last few years, there's been an increase in hateful speech and an increase in an outward display of hate that's probably been underground for a long time," she said.
The vigil, Kaufman said, sends a message to those who put up the fliers.
"This shows them that we won't accept what they did and we won't look the other way," she said. "We also want to show that we have each other's backs and we won't let people feel afraid or intimidated."
Ken Bollerud of Saratoga Springs held a sign at the vigil that read, "Spa City says 'no' to KKK."
"You have to stand up and say this is not representative of our city," he said. "We need to let people know that not all of us buy into the vile statements and behavior."
Susan Demick, who held the sign with Bollerud, said she attended the vigil to show support for her Asian son whom she adopted 10 years ago.
"To see anti-Asian and anti-black statements was horrifying," she said. "I don't want to just let it go and let racism be normalized."
Demick added, "This is not something we want people to associate with our city. We have to come out and tell people what happened, because silence is complacency."
Josie Smith of Colonie also wanted to show her support for Saratoga Springs.
"I stand with this diverse community," she said. "The time for silence is gone."
Smith said in recent years she's become more vocal on issues such as racism.
"I try to talk to people and combat hate with facts," she said. "There needs to be a lot less silence and a lot more support."
Smith said she hopes politicians and local officials get out into their communities more to understand the issues.
"It's been a long time since politicians have gone out into the neighborhoods they represent and that needs to go up to a state level," she said. "They should get out and understand why their communities are suffering."
Jillson said the police are still investigating the case.
Otis Maxwell, a member of the Saratoga Springs Democratic Committee, said in a statement, "This message of hate and intolerance has no place in our inclusive city."
Maxwell said the committee removes hate graffiti as well as gathers and disposes of hate literature.
"This is a non-partisan effort to support the city we all love," he said.
For the removal of hate graffiti and literature, committee Chair Courtney DeLeonardis can be contacted at [email protected]