Anti-violence supporters gather at City Plaza

  • Amanda MacLellan of Manchester holds a sign that reads “your struggle is bound up with mine” during an event titled “The Granite State Against Hate Rally and Vigil” at City Plaza in Concord on Saturday evening. ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff

Monitor staff
Sunday, September 03, 2017

The Rev. Eric Jackson doesn’t know the exact causes of the violent throngs of white supremacists that descended on Charlottesville, Va., last month. But speaking before a candlelit vigil at the Concord City Plaza on Saturday night, a supportive crowd gathered at his feet, the Brookside Congregational Church leader ventured a guess.

“Our society is overloaded with anxiety,” he said. “It is overloaded with hate.”

He paused. “Our society has been overloaded with silence.”

To Jackson, the riotous scenes from Aug. 12 – in which white nationalists and Nazi supporters flooded the Charlottesville streets and a counterprotestor was killed – have a direct antecedent: the failure to properly address stewing racial resentment in America.

“All the hateful rhetoric that we are seeing is becoming hateful action that has resulted in hateful systems, hateful institutions, hateful ideologies and hateful ideas, because they have been enabled through silence,” he said. “They have been enabled through compromise.”

It was a well-received message for the roughly 70 participants on the sidewalk, who cheered loudly at the words. Some brandished signs – “My struggle is your struggle” – while others joined in songs over candles.

But it also hit home for a different speaker: Kati Preston, a Holocaust survivor from the former country of Transylvania, took to the microphone to denounce Charlottesville’s public display of brazen racism.

“When I saw the marches, with the Nazis marching, it took me a couple of days to recover my courage, because it took me right back to where I come from,” she said. “I’ve seen those people … it can be anybody.”

Stemming the influence of hateful people, she added, requires an end to the silence that empowers them.

The event, organized in part by Nicole Stratton, dabbled in partisan politics, with a petition passed around for Gov. Chris Sununu to support a Congressional censure of President Donald Trump.

But for Preston, it was also a chance to offer hope for the future.

“When I speak with children in schools, I’m terribly encouraged because this generation in schools today don’t know prejudice,” she said. “They’re much better people. And they will save the world, I’m sure.”