President of the local NAACP chapter Dennis Powell was the keynote speaker.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Hundreds of local residents joined at Park Square on Saturday in protest of hate and racism.
Organized by the activist's group Indivisible Pittsfield, demonstrators carried signs, broke into protest songs, and waved to passing vehicles.
The event was organized in the wake of a "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Va., which attracted white supremacist and members of the Ku Klux Klan and ultimately ended in violence.
Meanwhile on Saturday, in Boston, a "free speech rally" was expected to attract many of the same groups as in Charlottesville and thousands of counter protesters took to the street.
Locally, the organizers organized a stand out in solidarity with those opposing racism and white supremacy elsewhere in the country.
"We are outraged by the hate we saw on the streets of Charlottesville last week. We are stunned by the number of people that marched with those torches. We are angered by the sheer number of them and the audacity they had to stand up and spew their hatred. We are outraged. We are angry," state Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier said.
She called on the crowd to not just be outraged though, because "outrage and angry are easy emotions to have, especially when you are surrounded by people who are just as outraged as you are" but to take action.
"We're feeding each other this good energy but we need to take this good energy and channel it in a way that will make sustained and real differences," Farley-Bouvier said.
She called on the each demonstrator to pick one topic to focus on and over time push to make a difference. She wanted the group to "do something real, do something lasting, do something sustainable."
"I'm going to concentrate on the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system disproportionably, by far, takes down a whole race of people in this country," Farley-Bouvier said.
He called on people to act, because apathy is interpreted as acceptance; too join forces and form a coalition with others; to support victims of hate crimes; to speak up against racism, to educate themselves; to create an alternative instead of attending hate rallies but to hold love and diversity rallies instead; to pressure elected officials; the stay engaged; to teach acceptance; and to look at themselves for their own bias and stereotypes.
Markers and poster board was available for people to make their own signs for the stand out.
"If we did something about the Klan years ago, maybe we wouldn't be dealing with them today. If we did something about Nazis, maybe we wouldn't be dealing with them today. The truth is, we did nothing because it did not affect us. People were hanging in trees. People were packing picnic baskets and driving their family in station wagons to go to a hanging like it was entertainment. We stood by and we did nothing," Powell said.
"That's why we are here today."
The rally in Pittsfield lasted slightly longer than an hour. Mayor Linda Tyer had helped expedite the permit for the event, which was organized in a short period of time.
Tyer also spoke at the rally, telling the story of when she met some school students from all over the world in the city's English language learners program and how she wants them to know "they are welcomed here and this place needs them."
Tyer called on those gathered to "not be silent" when it comes to combating hate and prejudice.
"Let's choose love. In this city and in the Berkshires we are here for each other and that's what this rally is all about," Tyer said.
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