Young leaders, politicians and Queens residents gathered in Jamaica on Tuesday night in a stand against hate.
Organized by the Queens County Young Democrats (QCYD), a group of about 20 individuals gathered at the King Manor Museum in Rufus King Park on Aug. 15 to denounce the hateful rhetoric and violence during the recent events in Charlottesville, VA.
On Aug. 11, white nationalists, Neo-Nazis and white supremacists marched on the campus of the University of Virginia. Holding up Nazi flags, torches and other symbols, protesters were seen on video chanting phrases, including, “Jews will not replace us.” The group, plus more protesters, assembled the following day in the Virginia town to oppose local lawmakers’ plans to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee from a nearby park. Counter-protesters also appeared, and the scene further dissolved into chaos and violence.
At least 34 people were wounded in the clashes between protesters, according to The New York Times. One person, Heather Heyer, was killed after a car driven by a 20-year-old Ohio man plowed into a group of counter-protesters. Two state troopers also died while in a helicopter that fell to the ground while they were monitoring the rally.
Kemar Newman, co-chair of QCYD’s Caucus of Color, led the rally and questioned President Donald Trump’s initial response, which was criticized as being weak and unaffecting, to the events in Charlottesville.
“I’m not quite understanding of why [President Trump] did not condemn [the rally] then, at that very moment that it had taken place,” Newman said. “And I personally believe the reason he did this was because he did not want to upset his voter base.”
QCYD President Stacey Eliuk followed, calling for “compassion” in the wake of the hate rally.
Reverend Phil Craig, who began the rally with a group prayer, said the Charlottesville events were a display of character.
“It’s really not a white or black thing,” Craig said. “It’s a character thing. Because once you omit the character of love, then the result is racism, it’s bigotry, it’s violence, it’s murder. All of these things put together, once you omit love.
“We have to let America know what happened in Charlottesville is not going to happen in Queens,” Craig continued. “We stand here together as Bangladeshis, as Indians, as blacks, as whites, as Hispanics. We stand together as one people.”
State Senator James Sanders Jr. led with a moment of silence for Heather Heyer. The lawmaker then pointed out, as indicated by white nationalists on blogs such as The Daily Stormer, “the worst is yet to come.”
“Where this country is heading, we have to stop this place,” Sanders Jr. said. “Those of us who have studied history: we know where this road goes.”
Councilman I. Daneek Miller, Assemblywoman Alicia Hyndman and Deputy Borough President Melva Miller were also in attendance.
Astoria resident Rianna Young felt it was important to organize and attend the event to show solidarity and resistance.
“What happened in Charlottesville shouldn’t happen anywhere,” Young said. “When we see something that we don’t like or don’t want to see, we should be there to express that.”
Kim Shannon, also an Astoria resident, felt the rally was a step in the right direction.
“I think we need to continue coming together and continue listening to each other and have more events like this,” Shannon said. “Great things can happen.”