Story by Lourice Angie
A peace vigil was held on Sun., Aug. 20 on the Railroad Green in the Village of Warwick as a response to the recent violence in Charlottesville, VA. The event was organized by Warwick resident Patricia McMillan, who invited the community, local business owners, civic, and religious organizations to assemble in solidarity. The intent was to peacefully show support and to demonstrate that local citizens are against racism, anti-semitism, and intolerance of any kind.
McMillan thanked the crowd for coming out and showing support, despite the heat. She gave a special shout out to Danielle Barbour, of Safe Space America. “It is our duty to speak out as Americans; to do otherwise is un-American.”
She then read a letter written by Warwick Mayor Michael Newhard, who was unable to attend the event. She announced that the Mayor supported the gathering and read aloud, “What a time we live in. Like so many, I’m filled with sadness about the recent events. Racism, bigotry, violence, and vitriol is shocking, disturbing and has shaken each of us to the core. So what can we do to counter this and find a living center of American freedom, rights and liberties? Possibly it starts with each one of us finding our human core, our shared humanism, and allowing that to be our guide. Isn’t that what gave birth to America in the very start? It is in the soulfulness and resilience of our great country that I find solace and assurance in this current storm.”
McMillan then called upon members of local religious organizations to share some words. Pastor Jack Arlotta, of St. Stephen First Martyr Parish, led the group in prayer. He thanked God for the opportunity for everyone to come together from different backgrounds and different races, saying, “Help us to recognize that all people are members of one human family. Strengthen our resolve to know always that all forms of hatred and the institution of fear do not divide us.”
Rev. Rolfi Elivo, of the Warwick Reformed Church, was then called upon to speak to the crowd. “When I saw what I saw happening in Virginia, I started to ask God, please help me to understand this, because I don’t understand. I’d like to see clearly what’s going in the United States of America. We are here together to say no to bigotry and to say no to all this hate. God is love. We are here to share love. We are not racists.”
The Rev. James W. Erwin, Jr., of Christ Episcopal Church in Warwick quoted a passage from Dr. Martin Luther King, delivered on the steps of the State Capitol in Montgomery, AL after the successful completion of the Selma to Montgomery March on Mar. 25, 1965. The quote reads: “How long until racial justice? Not long because no lie can live forever.”
The crowd then joined together in singing “Imagine,” the solo single written by John Lennon. The song lyrics encourage the listener to imagine a world at peace without the barriers or borders or the divisions of religion and nationality, and to consider the possibility that the whole of humanity could live as one.
Organizer Patricia McMillan closed the demonstration by saying, “We will continue to resist injustice. We will persist in our fight for equality for all and we will go high. We will not let hate win, not here, not now, not ever. Thank you.”