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Hundreds flock to Springfield vigil to stand against hate, racism


More than 250 people attended a vigil in downtown Springfield in light of recent events in Charlottesville, Va., that saw three people die amid violent protests.

Several local leaders from different backgrounds spoke out about the hatred seen during the white supremacist rallies in Virginia — and stressed Springfield won’t stand for racism and inequality — as part of Indivisible Springfield’s Standing in Solidarity against Hate vigil held at the downtown Esplanade on Wednesday evening.

RELATED: Springfield mayor speaks out about Charlottesville violence

Several Springfield rally-goers brought homemade signs, including one that read “Love Above Hate” and another that had an anti-Nazi symbol and read “Black Lives Matter.”

Springfield won’t stand for a racial divide, NAACP Springfield Chapter President Denise Williams said.

“We’re not in the ’60s any more,” Williams said. “We’re not tolerating it. Our purposes have come together as one … We won’t stand for this.”

There’s no room in Springfield for hate groups such as white supremacists, she said. Springfield must come together to fight inequality, Williams said.

“I don’t care what color you are, I don’t care who you love, I don’t care what faith,” Williams said. “God is going to handle all of this, but we have to stand together as one.”

RELATED: Group to host vigil in Springfield after Charlottesville violence

Racism and religious intolerance is wrong, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland told the crowd.

“There is no moral equivalence between standing for racial, religious freedom and equality and those who seek to teach hatred,” Copeland said.

A person should feel valued no matter who they are or where they come from, said Springfield resident Sana Ahmed, a local teacher who spoke as a representative of the Miami valley Islamic Association.

“We have a lot of work to do, so let’s all work to continue educating one another and to continue spreading love and unity,” Ahmed said. “Let’s show this world that despite our differences we will still be united for the sake of humanity and treat each other with kindness.”

A Unite the Right rally was held last weekend in the Virginia city where a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee has long been a point of contention. Rally participants, including white supremacists, members of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis, fought with counter protesters.

RELATED: Hate groups in Ohio: Who are they, and where do they operate?

James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Ohio has been charged with murder and other counts after police alleged he was involved in a fatal hit-and-run crash that killed a woman and injured 19 others. Two police pilots also died when their helicopter crashed during a patrol.

The diverse turnout was great, said organizer Brad Minerd, a member of Indivisible Springfield, a grassroots organization that hosted the vigil. The organization describes its mission as resisting racism and corruption in government.

“This is indicative of what our community is,” he said. “Our community is not going to stand for racism and hatred.”

Springfield needs more of these events, resident Bernard Lenoir said after the event. He wants to see more focus on ending crime in the city, he said.

“It was great, really great,” Lenoir said. “We need more of these. Black-on-black crime needs to stop. Everybody needs to come to peace.”

At the end of the event, the crowd held hands and Williams led the singing of the gospel song, “This Little Light of Mine.”

“We are a city united,” Williams said. “We are not a city divided.”

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