PITTSBURG — As the sun was beginning to set over Immigrant Park on Sunday, local people gathered in a large circle with flickering candles in solidarity with Charlottesville, Virginia, following the rally which ended in the death of a 32-year-old woman, Heather Heyer.
Heyer was killed when a car, allegedly driven by 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., plowed into a crowd of people, injuring 19 others who were protesting against the white supremacist Unite the Right rally Saturday.
Organizer Megan Johnson said she saw there was a vigil going on in Kansas City, she then wanted to do the same in Pittsburg.
The gathering also helped raise funds for the Southern Poverty Law Center — $157 was raised for the organization that evening. To learn more about the law center go to splcenter.org.
“The Southern Poverty Law Center is the foremost anti hate organization in the United States,” Jeremy Johnson said. “They do a lot of legal and educational work in exposing and prosecuting hate crimes and making people aware of hate groups and their activities in the United States.”
Megan Johnson said she considers the events that took place on Saturday as a terrorist attack.
“This protest and counter protests unfortunately resulted in what I would call a terrorist attack,” she said. “I was extremely troubled. When I was looking at pictures of what was happening, I was asking myself, ‘What decade are we in?’
“They were so reminiscent of images of the civil rights era of people carrying torches, shouting messages of hate, violence — it was just very disturbing.”
Megan Johnson said, that as a community, as a state, and as a United States citizen people should denounce the ideology the white supremacists were espousing.
“We first must vocally denounce the ideology they were espousing, that we must say we do not agree and will not tolerate those messages of hatred — those acts of violence,” she said. ““We have a duty to be open to one another and accepting of one another and embrace the diversity of our nation.”
Megan Johnson shared a Martin Luther King Jr. quote “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
“We have to make sure we are not taking a step back, that we are constantly being and becoming more and more just,” Johnson said. “It doesn’t happen without more people getting involved.”
The group gathered in a large circle — which some said was a symbol of unity within itself — had a moment of silence.
After the moment of silence, the group shared their thoughts on the Charlottesville protest.
The group spoke of how children and adults have been treated poorly because of the same ideology presented in Charlottesville by the white supremacists towards people’s nationality, gender and beliefs — and that it happens in Pittsburg too.
One had said they have seen disturbing behavior at the schools and others said they have seen it right outside WalMart.
Frontenac United Methodist Church Pastor Annie Ricker spoke to the circle of people about Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s resistance to evil in Nazi Germany during when Germany was governed by a dictatorship under the control of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party.
“In the face of evil, if you are silent your silence is evil, in the face of evil actions, your inaction is itself evil,” Ricker said. “We have been challenged not to simply speak of our principle, not to simply talk about the superiority of or beliefs or the rights of justice, but to act, because if we do not act then we are allowing to evil to act.
“That is who we are called to be, whether we people to claim a faith or simply people who claim this nation and the way it was founded with freedom and justice for all people.”
— Stephanie Potter is a staff writer at the Morning Sun. She can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @PittStephP and Instagram @stephanie_morningsun.