More than 300 people, bundled up against 32 degree weather, stood between snow-covered bushes and patches of white ground in downtown Greenville on Jan. 8 for A Rally for Solidarity.
Some downtown businesses and churches were closed on this freezing Sunday, but the afternoon rally had more people gathered at the Peace Center Square than the first weekend debut of Pokemon Go in 2016. They came to support the nation’s diversity and to show that discrimination and prejudice have no place in the U.S.A.
People held signs promoting inclusion for Muslims, Latinos and women, as well as signs that spoke of love, unity and tolerance. Only one sign mentioned Trump, reading, “Impeach Trump. Make American Great Again.”
“America will one day live up to its ideals and its values,” said Jalen Elrod, president of the Greenville Young Democrats, who spoke to the crowd about the nation’s hope for inclusion with the country’s beginning in 1776 and the Constitution’s preamble, “We the people…”
Elrod contrasted the Founding Fathers’ vision with what happened after Donald Trump was elected president: “Following the election, we all began to hear about the hate crimes that were taking place across this country. I heard stories of young Latina girls who were surrounded by mobs at school as they shouted, ‘Adios’ and “Build that wall’ to them.”
Other speakers urged the crowd to stand up for themselves, as well as for all women, minorities, refugees, immigrants, Muslims, and the LGBTQ communities. Members of these groups and others have experienced fear and sorrow since the 2016 presidential campaign and Trump’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and repeated promise to deport undocumented Latino workers and build a wall between Mexico and the U.S, the speakers said.
“Imagine waking up and knowing every day that this could be your last day with your kids,” said Alejandro Mejia, a minister at the Lutheran church Parroquia Nuestro Salvador.
“That is the daily reality of many Hispanics in the community,” Mejia said. “We need compassion for these families.”
Another minister, Deb Richardson-Moore, who has transformed Triune Mercy into a ministry helping Greenville’s most dispossessed, including people who are homeless, addicts, and have mental and behavioral health problems, reminded the rally crowd that Jesus was a refugee.
Richardson-Moore drew parallels behind Jesus’ birth and the current Syrian refugee crisis.
“There is no holy family safe in Bethlehem without them on the run as refugees to Egypt,” she said. “As we see a million refugees trudging through Europe, we need to ask, ‘What if that was our Lord?’”
As Richardson-Moore was talking about how so many of humanity’s problems are rooted in fear, the two-hour long rally experienced its only disruption as someone driving by shouted out, “Go Trump!”
Several musicians performed a revised edition of “This Land is Your Land,” adding the line, “Some forces are trying to divide us, the fear and hatred and all the lying. Is it fear of the immigrant, fear of the Muslim. I say, let’s welcome one and all.” The song also included a verse in Spanish and the line, “Instead of building walls, let’s tear them down. This land was made for one and all.”
Chrisso Blackmon rapped a poem that juxtaposed patriotism and democratic freedom with tactical generational racism. “Oh, I wish I could use profanity in regards to the land of the free, but for this speech, I gotta keep it rated ‘G,’ he said to the crowd’s laughter.