Rally embraces tolerance as Trump takes office
"I have to do something positive because it's too easy to go negative for the next four years," said Linda Marsha of Shaftsbury, expressing a sentiment echoed by many others of the approximately 50 people attending the rally. "So I've decided this is what I can do. I can lace my shoes up, get out and stay positive and stand up for what I believe in. It's too easy to be angry."
The Manchester chapter of Stand Up To Hate planned the rally for the same day as Donald Trump's inauguration as president. But organizers including Jonathan Fine of Dorset had asked participants to keep their signs focused on promoting tolerance and diversity, rather than attacking Trump, and attendees complied. Signs read "embrace diversity," "US = all of us" and "liberty and justice for all."
"We're all about spreading a message of tolerance," Fine said. "This is the first step is making ourselves heard and seen ... the first of many activities to come."
Many cars and trucks driving through the roundabout honked their horns in solidarity. Attendees said most of the driver reactions they saw were positive — though they said they spotted a few thumbs-down gestures and scowls as well.
Adding to the mood was the appearance of free pizza, courtesy of Earth Sky Time Community Farm's mobile wood-fired pizza bus. "It's about community solidarity and standing up for the earth," said Oliver Levis of Manchester, who was manning the pizza oven.
Marsha held a sign that read "embrace diversity" and was adorned with prayer flags. She said she's concerned about what will happen to planned parenthood, immigration and education in the Trump administration.
"It's sad but it's going to take the next four years for people to realize what really truly can happen when you have someone in power who has not got the best interests of the people at hand except the billionaires. And I don't know any billionaires."
Loretta Reisman of Rupert, holding a sign with the word "hate" crossed out, was also among those who felt compelled to take action of some sort on Friday.
"I had to come. I had to do something besides bitch and moan about the results of the election," she said. "I'm a child of the 60s and I missed out on going to the March on Washington [in 1963] and I had to something now because I feel so distraught about what might happen to this country with our new president."
Reisman was a college student working for the furriers' union in New York in the summer of 1963 and wanted to go with them to attend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s speech at the March on Washington, but her parents were concerned about her safety.
"I always felt I should have been there. So I'm going to Montpelier for the women's march [on Saturday]," Reisman said. "If I don't do this I'm going to regret it for the rest of my life. I have to speak up."
Another theme shared by many demonstrators was the need to tone down the rhetoric and vitriol in politics and national debate.
I think it's important for citizens to speak their minds and do so peacefully and diplomatically," said Pablo Elliott of Manchester. "This is definitely what America needs right now — for people to speak up and be peaceful and civil at the same time."
Reach Greg Sukiennik at 802-490-6000 or on Twitter @GSukiennik_MJ
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