Community unites together against hate


Erica Moster

People stand along Lincoln Avenue to promote love and tolerance following events in Charlottesville, Virgina and across the country.

Cassie Buchman, Editor-in-chief

During the “United Against Hate” Rally Saturday in Morton Park, Charleston resident Shelley Epperson had her parents on her mind.

She was especially thinking about her father, whom she said fought the Nazis in World War II.

Though losing her parents was a horrific experience, Epperson said a part of her is grateful they did not live to see the racism that is happening now.

“It would have broken their hearts,” she said. “I think they would have protested in their own way, too… I don’t know what they’d make of this.”

On Saturday, about 120 people came to the rally to protest against “hatred in all its forms,” according to the rally’s Facebook event page. This rally comes a couple weeks after another one was put together in five hours, following the death of one person and the injury of others when a car drove into a group of people protesting a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.

Others at the rally cited a resurgence in white supremacist groups in the country, such as Neo-Nazis and the KKK, as the reasons they came to the rally.

Many carried signs that read “All are welcome here,” “Hate has no home here,” and “Honk for equality,” as they stood along Lincoln Avenue.

While Epperson said she attended the rally on behalf of her family, she also wanted to show support for young people as well.

“Other people carried the load, now it’s my turn to carry the load,” Epperson said. “I’m grateful to have the chance to.”

Charleston resident Paula McNitt came to the rally to make a statement against the kind of divisiveness, hatred, prejudice and xenophobia she said she has seen ascending in the country.

“I wanted to show solidarity with people in Charlottesville,” she said.

McNitt said she did not want to stand passively by and make people think the community accepts prejudice.

“We’re standing up against it, encouraging other people to be at least be brave enough to say no to this new resurgence of racism,” McNitt said. “It should have died out long ago.”

This resurgence both frightens and disheartens McNitt.

“We must take a stand against it. This is not who we are, who we aspire to be as a nation and a people,” she said.

Patty Hooper brought her children to Charleston from Effingham for the rally.

“My kids were pretty upset after Charlottesville, so we felt like we needed to do something,” Hooper said. “I thought this would be a good chance to stand up for what’s right in a small way.”

Though her one daughter, Charlotte, is only 11, she was upset enough after the news in Charlottesville to participate in the rally.

“People got killed for standing up for what they believe in,” Charlotte said. “It really makes me angry. I wanted to make a difference.”

Hooper said she never thought she would live to see a day where hate groups are accepted like they are now.

“The older I get, the more I read I understand I’m part of the problem, too,” she said. “I need to do something, take a stand.”

Charleston resident Ed Adams’ reason for being at the rally was simple.

“Someone has to be out here,” he said. “We have to stand up against things going on in this world. Not just here, but in the whole world.”

Adams, like many, brought his own sign to the rally. On his sign were the words “We’re many people, in one world, all united against hate.”

“I was born in the 1930s’. I have seen a lot,” Adams said. “There’s no room for hate.”

Nikki Davidson, a graduate student studying school psychology and one of the organizers of the rally, said the real purpose was to bring people together.

“We’re not going to change the opposition’s side, so we’ll strengthen the bonds of people on this side so we can work together and network to come forth with real change,” Davidson said.

Because of all the recent events that have been happening, Davidson said she has been angry all the time.

“But it’s how you use that anger,” she said. “You have to channel it into something productive instead of just lashing out at people.”

Cars passing by honked their horns, sometimes giving the ralliers thumbs up in support. A couple cars were less supportive, throwing out middle fingers as they drove past.

Still, the fact that people were willing to gather together on a Saturday night gave Davidson some more faith in humanity.

“Let the good outweigh the bad, because the good does outweigh the bad,” Davidson said.

Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]