Anti-hate rally gets honks, thumbs-up from passers-by
MILFORD — A silent antihate rally on the Green had a steady stream of participants Sunday, despite the drizzle and cloudy skies, but there were many sounds of car horns beeping in solidarity as participants held signs that read “Hate Has No Home Here,” written in English, Spanish, Arabic and Hebrew.
Although some wore their political views on their hats or shirts, the rally itself wasn’t political, and included high-profile, area Democrats and Republicans.
Cindy Wolfe Boynton, a Milford resident and president of the Connecticut chapter of the National Organization for Women, was heartened to hear someone at the rally say, “I connected with someone I never thought I could agree with.”
“That is what we need more of in our communities, in our state and across our nation — people to come out of their political silos and come together to have real conversations and find common ground,” Boynton said. “How else are we going to create the understanding that’s needed for all of us to move forward and create communities where there is true justice and real opportunities for all?”
The rally, organized by resident Amy Lappos and a few friends in just a few weeks, was peaceful, and there were no counter protesters. They formed a Milford chapter of the national organization “Hate Has No Home Here,” and they have other events planned.
Tessa Marquis, a representative of the group “Milford Speaks Out,” wore an orange T-shirt — the color that symbolizes anti-gun violence — and a button that read, “I am a peaceful protester. That means you don’t have to hit me.”
There was no hate from the many passers-by, only thumbs-up and horns of support.
Orange Democratic Town Committee Chairman Jodie Dietch took time out from the busy campaign trail this election year to hold one of the signs lining the Green.
“I think there’s a lot less tolerance of people who are different from us,” in terms not only of race, religion, ethnicity but also “lifestyle,” Dietch said. “Everyone finds a reason to judge a book by its cover.”
Dietch, who said she thinks in many cases what comes across as hate is really ignorance, said she wishes the world lived by John Lennon’s “Imagine.”
Nancy Kierstead, who took part in silent protests in the 1960s and was a gun control advocate follow the assassination of JFK in 1963, finds herself back in the mode all these years later. She took part in the Women’s March on Washington in January and on Sunday held a “Hate Has No Home Here” sign on the edge of the Green.
“People feel so free now to display their hatred and disdain for other people . ... Everyone is on the verge of fighting with everyone,” said Kierstead, a retired attorney. “I’ve been so disheartened, discouraged, disgusted about what’s going on that I decided to put myself out there.”
Although Kierstead said she feels the world has lost a level of “civility,” she also believes with all her heart “there is endless goodness in this world.”
Laura Fucci said she believes it’s necessary to “Push back against people who hate” others just because of the way individuals are born.
Fucci, who is raising three daughters, including one with autism and developmental disabilities, lost family in the Holocaust and has an aunt who survived the Holocaust, said there must be voices against happenings like those in Charlottesville.
“We have to speak up because it’s not what America’s about,” she said.
Jenna Sinkewicz of Stratford sent a message via her two greyhounds, one who wore the words, “Resist Hate,” and the other “Free kisses, Resist Hate.”
Sinkewicz said it was great to learn there was a local happening like Sunday’s rally against hate.
“I feel like there’s always been a divide,” she said. “Hatred comes from fear and fear comes from not knowing. It’s up to us to educate people, to have a conversation, to get the community together.”
Republican Town Committee Chairman Matt Gaynor and Republican Town Committee member Walter Hagedorn, who is also a Board of Education member, were there as well, holding signs after Lappos spoke at their recent meeting.
“The first thing is to have a dialogue with people of all backgrounds,” Gaynor said, adding that he thinks social media contributes to the atmosphere of hate because people express and react impulsively to things that aren’t even necessarily true. He said social media does not allow for the 24hour cool-down period.
“Everybody has to step back and take a look at things for what they are,” and open themselves up to understanding, said Hagedorn, who grew up in the diverse city of Bridgeport. He said there is nothing political about hate — that it is a people issue.
Bunny Elmore, one of the organizers, said, “We live in a culture of tribalism,” and sports is a good example of the us vs. them mentality.
Lappos said recently the beauty in the group’s message is that they are not just saying to love your neighbor, but are saying, “We don’t tolerate hate toward our neighbors.”
That desire to form the chapter, she said, came from seeing a lot more misogynistic, racist, hateful comments because of the “political atmosphere” in the nation.
Sandy Morgan, of Milford, flashes a peace sign to passing traffic on Broad Street in Milford while participating in the silent rally Sunday.
Above, Jennifer Gibson, left, and her wife, Megan DeSomery, of Milford, participating in a silent anti-hate rally on the Milford Green. At left, Milford-Orange Probate Judge Beverly Streit-Kefalas waves to cars passing on Broad Street in Milford during the rally on Sunday.