Photo by Eric Goodwin / Assistant News Editor
Update: This article was updated Aug. 15 at 7:54 p.m. to correct Pastor Michael Jannett’s name.
In the wake of violent white nationalist rallies in Charlottesville, Va. that left three dead and dozens wounded, a group of activists stood outside the Rutherford County Courthouse holding candles on Sunday.
Organized by a host of progressive local organizations, the candlelight vigil expressed solidarity for those experiencing oppression, hatred or bigotry, and condemned white nationalism and racial prejudice.
Jennifer Vannoy, 48, said she “cried a lot of tears last night” from seeing the events in Charlottesville unfold.
That was the night that a Kentucky man plowed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd of people in Charlottesville protesting the so-called “alt-right” rallies taking place there, killing 32-year-old Heather D. Heyer and injuring 19 others.
The driver, James Alex Fields Jr., was seen earlier in the day donning an “alt-right” shield bearing the group’s symbols. Fields has since been arrested.
“My initial response was a deep sense of sadness,” Vannoy said. She spoke before the audience on behalf of the Power Together Tennessee Movement.
Despite the sadness, Vannoy said, “thank goodness that sometimes things like this happen, because it makes us … a little bit more honest with who we are.”
A number of demonstrators held signs with different messages like, “Murfreesboro stands with Charlottesville,” “Love your neighbor as yourself” and “Stand up to racism.”
Calling for peace, unity and love, numerous church pastors made an appearance at the vigil to speak.
“Every time we fail to speak out against an injustice — against the injustice of the lack of health care, injustices like racism and bigotry and prejudice, we are part of the problem,” said Michael Jannett, the pastor at Advent Lutheran Church.
Mariah Phillips, a forthcoming 2018 contender to U.S. Rep. Scott Desjarlais’ spot in Congress, was among the list of speakers.
“We cannot solve our problems with violence and hate,” Phillips said. “I choose to combat this hatred and violence with love.”
Jason Bennett, one of the many volunteers to help organize the short-notice event, said he “wasn’t shocked at all” regarding the news in Charlottesville.
Bennett helped organize the event on behalf of the Rutherford County Interfaith Council.
“I think we have seen all of that coming for a long time,” he said. “Just like some of the speakers here said, we, in our apathy, have allowed (racism) to continue to go on.”
Unlike the similar vigil that took place at the courthouse following President Trump’s executive travel ban on immigrants from predominately Muslim countries, the event was met with almost no disruption.
Instead, the crowd of demonstrators held lit candles in the evening air while singing, “This Little Light of Mine,” and then they quietly dispersed.
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