Gary stands with Charlottesville: Unity March and Vigil on Monday, August 28 at City Hall

By: Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson

On Tuesday, August 15, 2017, I was overwhelmed with emotions of disbelief, sadness and fear, as I listened to an intemperate President Donald Trump retreat from his reluctant condemnation of white supremacy.  In opining about the tragedy in Charlottesville, VA, a man who holds an office that has often been referred to as “the leader of the free world” equated the vitriolic hatred spewed by the white supremacists and Neo-Nazis in Virginia to peaceful counter protestors who sought to convey a message that intolerance has no place in this country.  He seemed oblivious to the fact that Heather Heyer had lost her life at the hands of someone who had traveled halfway across the country to salute Hitler, castigate Jews and engage in aggressive behavior.

There was a bit of irony associated with the fact that I missed the President’s comments because I was consumed with the work of my narrowly focused day.  I am not saying that I was wrong to be attentive to the needs of a challenged community.  I am simply saying that there is an inherent danger in being so consumed with our own issues that we miss the implication of national issues on our everyday lives and work.   

I found the President’s support of the actions of white supremacists and Neo-Nazis hard to believe because it is so inconsistent with the journey that we have travelled as a country over the course of the last few centuries.  Does he really believe “there is blame on both sides?” Does he really believe this is a figment of the “fake media’s” imagination when people marched and chanted “Jews will not replace us?” Is he truly that beholden to those who purvey hatred? I was saddened because I was forced to face the reality that while we have seemingly travelled far, we have so many more miles to go.

But I am also fearful because I understand the ability of hate to spread like a cancer through communities, states and this country.  I believe this is especially dangerous considering the divisive national climate already created by a political campaign that seemed to seize on peoples’ aversion and negativity towards others.  Our moral compass has already been endangered.  How do we continue to survive continued threats?

After reflecting through the course of a restless night, I have concluded that each of us has a responsibility to step out of the comfort zone of our daily routines.  Because the President has abdicated his responsibility of moral leadership on this issue, we must remain vigilant in our own neighborhoods and cities to ensure that bigotry and hatred receive no air time, both figuratively and literally.  Our job is not only to condemn those sentiments that fly in the face of our democracy, it is to promote tolerance and love of all people and freedom and justice for all.  We owe that tribute to the struggles of our ancestors, Heather Heyer and others who have lost their lives.  More importantly we owe that example to our children.  

To this end, the city of Gary and the Gary Human Relations Commission is inviting all of Northwest Indiana to join us for a Unity March and Vigil on Monday, August 28, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. We will begin at 9th and Broadway and continue to the steps of City Hall.  We will stand with the community of Charlottesville, but we will also send a message of unity to all of Northwest Indiana and for all to see.  

Posted in Five-Point Plan to Stand Against Hate.