A simple e-mail sent by a Salina woman Saturday night prompted a grass-roots rally attended by about 200 people Sunday night against hate and in support of peace.
Several Salina pastors were among a crowd that gathered at Robert Caldwell Plaza on the grounds of the Salina City / County Building and Public Library.
Chris Seitz tells KSAL News that she was prompted by watching the events unfold in Charlottesville, Virginia. During a rally of white supremacists over the weekend Twenty-year-old James Fields Jr of Ohio allegedly drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters. 32-year-old Heather Heyer was killed and at least 19 others injured. In a related tragedy, two Virginia state troopers were killed when a helicopter patrolling the scene crashed outside of Charlottesville.
Seitz told KSAL News at the rally that she felt compelled to do something. She sent an e-mail, which was then shared on social media. She was shocked by the reaction, and turnout to what was initially going to be a simple candlelight vigil.
Seitz said that the rally was meant to honor all of the victims in Charlottesville by gathering to show solidarity against hate and racism.
NancyJo Leachman of Salina lived in Charlottesville for 15 years. She became a member of the Religious Society of Friends, choosing to live a peaceful non violent life as a Quaker. She told KSAL News that it was difficult to watch the events unfolding in her former community.
Several Pastors spoke at the event, with a message of standing up and speaking out against hate. The chaplain from Salina’s St. Francis Community Services paraphrased President Barack Obama and said “children are not born into our world with hatred in their hearts, it is a learned behavior, and if people can learn hatred they can be taught love.”
Several citizens also spoke at the event, including Leachman. She had those in attendance gather for a group photo to send to her friends in Charlottesville as a show of solidarity.
As the gathering progressed the group prayed, and sang “We Shall Overcome”.
The gathering in Salina was one of many across the country to stand in solidarity with all of the victims in Charlottesville. Crowds gathered at the site in Virginia. A different public rally at the University of Virginia was cancelled because of credible threats from white supremacists.
(CLICK PHOTOS TO ENLARGE)