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Milton-Freewater, OR 97862
A group of over 300 people came together Monday night, at a candlelight vigil, to take a stand against white supremacy and hate. The vigil was organized by Walla Walla Indivisible in response to an act of domestic terrorism over the weekend in Charlottesville, VA that took the life of Heather Heyer. The vigil was held at 8pm at the intersection of Main and 1st Avenue in downtown Walla Walla.
As the crowd gathered and candles were distributed, the sidewalk downtown began to glow with of hundreds of tiny, individual lights. The vigil began with a greeting from Reverend Nathaniel Mahlberg, pastor of First Congregational Church of Walla Walla. “I wish you all peace in the midst of these troubled times. I wish you the sacred restlessness that comes from being people of conscious living through these violent times,” Rev Mahlberg said. “May we know the fierce urgency of this time,” he added.
“We must face our grief. The grief that we are all feeling. But we must also confront the monstrous forces that seek to feed off this suffering,” Rev Mahlberg continued. “We inherit this struggle from prior generations. Our forebears have proven that love, hope and human dignity can triumph over hatred but only at great cost and only in part. And so now we must do our part.”
The atmosphere was sovereign and a sense of reverence swept the crowd. Noah Leavitt, a congregant at Congregation Beth Israel took the mic. Leavitt read a reflection from a colleague in Charlottesville and then reminded the community of an act of hate that took place seven years prior. “Someone was walking through Heritage Park and they noticed that there was a swastika burned on the ground. And there was another swastika painted on one of the beautiful images on Heritage wall. The wall that displays the amazing vibrancy and vitality of our community, and the incredible richness and diversity we are able to enjoy here,” Leavitt said.
“Within days, the outcry about how horrible it was to see a swastika in downtown Walla Walla was extraordinary. And there was unbelievable community resistance,” Leavitt reflected. “And it was exactly the kind of thing that, as a Jewish person, I felt so preserved by in this town… It reminds me that as a town we come out and say this is wrong, this is not who we are,” he continued.
“Her name is Heather Heyer, say her name,” Kazi Joshua with the Walla Walla Immigration Rights Coalition stated as he took the mic. That phrase would become the rally cry of those in attendance at Monday night’s vigil.
Heyer was killed on Saturday when an individual being described as a Neo-Nazi sympathizer drove his car into a crowd of Charlottesville-area residents there to march against hate. Heyer was known for her social justice activism. Her Facebook wall shows her passion for fighting for people of color, LGBTQ people and other marginalized individuals.
“The last post that Heather posted on her Facebook was: ‘If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention!‘ Are you paying attention,” Joshua asked. “I’m paying attention and I’m outraged because violence was not coming from many sides,” Joshua added in response to comments made by Donald Trump following the attack. “Their ‘making America great again‘ does not include Jews, Muslims, Latinos, immigrants, LGBTQ, trans people. I’m paying attention and I’m outraged,” Joshua said concerning the white supremacists in Charlottesville this past weekend.
“I’m paying attention and I’m outraged that these events in Charlottesville involved people from the great state of Washington. The president of a Washington State University College Republicans was forced to resign because of his participation in these events. This was not random. There were people from Reno, Nevada. There were people from Berkeley that gathered, that had planned to come. This was not a random act of violence. It is a concerted systematic organization of trying to impose white supremacy. So, we stand together, that this is one Walla Walla,” Joshua told the crowd as he asked for five minutes of silence to honor the lives of those lost in struggle of justice.
Joshua’s remarks reflect on recent news that the President of the Washington State University’s College Republican chapter was linked to Saturday’s “Unite the Right” protest in Charlottesville. James Allsup appeared in photos and videos at Saturday’s event. This video catalogs Allsup’s involvement in the events in Charlottesville.
By Sunday evening, a photo of Allsup and Congresswoman Cathy McMorris-Rogers began circulating around social media. The photo is the featured cover photo on the WSU College Republican Facebook page. McMorris-Rogers responded with a garbled statement saying she didn’t know Allsup. Like Trump, McMorris-Rogers danced around condemning white supremacy. Allsup resigned on Monday from his position with his Republican organization.
Following the moment of silence, Joshua issued a commission to the crowd: “May you now go forth into the world with holy anger at injustice, oppression, white supremacy and all exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for justice, freedom and equality and peace among all. May you have the audacity to believe that you really can make a difference in this world, so that collectively, we’re able to do what others claim cannot be done.”
“Say her name,” Joshua proclaimed.
Susan Bauer captured the following photos of Monday night’s vigil.
You can replay the vigil in it’s entirety from our Facebook Live video.
See more of Susan’s work on her blog, Walla Walla Daily Photo As Seen By Susan. Featured photo courtesy of Everett Maroon.
Brandon has worked in journalism and media for over a decade in various capacities. The highlights of his career include documenting the evolution of queer culture in the American south, and covering politics and government on the Texas border. Brandon lives in Milton-Freewater, Oregon.