A Vigil was held in Jamestown NY, the hometown of Judge Robert H. Jackson. We stood, almost in the shadow of the Center dedicated to his work as Supreme Court Justice, as the architect of the international trial process, and later as the chief prosecutor of Nazi leaders at Nuremberg, Germany.
We stood in solidarity with Charlottesville VA. The theme of our gathering was “Not in Our Town-Stop Hate Together.” The vigil was organized by Susan Meara, Kristina Benson, and others in the community. There have been many such demonstrations all over the country, but here in Jamestown our history brings the horror in Charlottesville into even sharper focus. It was Judge Jackson who presided over the trials of the world’s most inhumane war criminals. You can’t think of the word Nazi without thinking of people hating on a scale unimaginable to most of us. It is the beginning of that kind of hate we are seeing around us.
Many of Jamestown’s representatives and citizens spoke eloquently for love and tolerance. Our Mayor, Sam Teresi, spoke of when he sat with his children on 9/11 to explain that there is evil in the world, but that good people working together can stop evil. He said we should have that same talk with our children and friends, that good and love will overcome evil if we always keep it in our hearts and through our actions. Our City President Greg Rabb identified himself as a gay man who has experienced hate and bigotry through his life. He said (a bit tongue in cheek) that he is one President that has no trouble saying Nazis are bad, White Supremacists are bad, along with the KKK, and all bigoted/hate groups.
Two local musicians led us in song. Ken Hardley inspired the gathering with Pete Seegar’s timeless song “If I had A Hammer” and Marla Harris sang and led us in a rousing rendition of “This Little Light Of Mine.” Many Jamestown residents took to the microphone to read quotes from Nelson Mandella, Dr King, Eleanor Roosevelt, and others.
Some people added their own feelings about how they felt and why they came. Three particularly touching ones were from a young women who is vacationing in Chautauqua. She felt the need to come to the vigil to process how she felt as a woman of Jewish heritage, and she reminded us all to stand up to racism and hate. Renata Bob spoke of seeing the symbols of the Nazis pass by her apartment in Danzig, as a young child, and how horrible it is to see those same images in the USA. A long time Jamestown resident, Dr.Benjamin Okwumabua, said when he first came to Jamestown how welcoming everyone was and how we need to pass that welcome on to all people. He also asked us all to pray for President Trump, to pray very hard to bring love into his heart.
The election of Trump has brought into the light of day people, who, in the past, would hide themselves in hoods or under rocks. Now they proudly praise Trump with a swastika on their arm or a Confederate flag in their hands. We stood united in Jamestown to remember Heather Heyer, and the many people hurt in Charlottesville, and around the country. We pledged that we would fight bigotry and hate in our community, thereby coming full circle to strongly declare the theme of our demonstration, “Not In Our Town!”