By JOHN T. WARD
Hours after violent clashes between white supremacists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, about 150 local residents and community leaders gathered in Red Bank’s Riverside Gardens Park for a “unity and peace” demonstration Saturday night.
But unlike a rally held in the West Front Street park one day after the start of the Trump Administration, this one did not avoid mentioning Trump’s name, as several speakers laid responsibility for the day’s outburst of hatred and deadly violence in Virginia on the president.
Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke was in Charlottesville “saying he was trying to fulfill the will of the man in the White House,” said Rabbi Marc Kline, of the Monmouth Reform Temple in Tinton Falls.
Kline called Trump “a man who claims he doesn’t know David Duke, who claims he doesn’t foster racism, while he has made it the earmark of his entire campaign, and alienating people has been the entire thrust of his presidency.”
“It’s time to be angry enough to do something,” said Kline, a member of the borough Human Relations Committee. We know that love is the answer, and sometimes you have to love people enough to get in their face to teach them what it really means.”
Organized in a matter of hours via social media by borough activist Kate Triggiano, the “emergency action” gathering aimed to counter the messages of hate trafficked in Charlottesville by alt-right nationalists, the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, Confederacy defenders and other white supremacists, Triggiano said.
The event drew dozens to the arched entryway to the park, some carrying flashlights at Triggiano’s urging to cut through the “darkness” of hatred.
Noting that the events in Charlottesville began as a “Unite the Right” rally, Reverend Gilbert Caldwelll, a retired Methodist minister who lives in Asbury Park told the crowd that “whenever the right is wrong, we must challenge them.”
The day’s violence “confirmed what a lot of us have been worried about with the Trump presidency,” said Mariel DiDato, who’s running for a state Assembly seat as a Democrat in district 13, which includes Fair Haven, Little Silver, Middletown, Rumson and Sea Bright. “All of us know that, in reality, he and the people behind him directly played a part in these events.”
“People feel more comfortable dropping the ‘N’ word and using racial pejoratives. People feel more comfortable blaming all immigrants for America’s problems,” DiDato said. “And why wouldn’t they, when we have a president who called Mexican immigrants rapists, who barred Muslims from entering the country, and who ran on the Obama birth certificate conspiracy?”
Rallies like those in Red Bank and elsewhere around the country are reminders “that we are not the people who hate, we are the people who love,” said Sue Fulton, an Asbury Park resident and military veteran.
The event, which lasted less than 45 minutes, closed with Fulton leading the crowd in the singing of ‘Amazing Grace.’