Anti-hate rally gets honks, thumbs-up from passers-by

New Haven Register (New Haven, CT) - - FRONT PAGE - By Pam McLough­lin

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.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Sandy Mor­gan, of Mil­ford, flashes a peace sign to pass­ing traf­fic on Broad Street in Mil­ford while par­tic­i­pat­ing in the si­lent rally Sun­day.

Arnold Gold / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

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.

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