ITHACA, N.Y. — Hundreds of people carrying lights or candles met in the Ithaca Commons Sunday night to stand in solidarity with the people of Charlottesville after white supremacists rallied in the city, clashing with counterprotesters and leaving one woman dead.

“Fury is a powerful tool. Rage is a powerful tool,” Tompkins County Legislator Anna Kelles said. “Let it fuel you.”

She said that the actions in Charlottesville will hopefully be a catalyst, forcing people to act and make a change locally through community engagement.

But recognizing and being aware of the hate projected by people, she said, does not beget returning the feeling.

“I’m not going to poison my soul for them because they don’t deserve it,” Kelles said.

Fabina Colon, director at the Multicultural Resource Center, said that while the bloodshed and death does bring to light some of the struggles people of color and other underrepresented groups face, the hate is nothing new.

Fabina Colon addresses the crowd at the Bernie Milton Pavilion stage Sunday night. Photo by Mike Blaney/The Ithaca Voice

“What happened in Virginia, as Ms. Phoebe (Brown) said, has been happening daily…not just in our nation, but our globe, our entire globe,” she said.

Colon said people suffer every day, not just from physical violence, but from physiological and cultural issues as well.

She said people fight against a long-standing system not created for people of color, the poor, the formerly incarcerated or others to succeed.

“And if you’re lucky, you’ll make it in a system that wasn’t meant for you,” she said.

But the key to change is trying to do something different, she said.

For her, that means collaborating with others at the Multicultural Resource Center to work on innovative, new ways to help people.

For Kelles, that means political engagement — having a seat at the table for policy making decisions.

“If we try new things, we might actually leave a legacy behind,” Colon said, though she added that the legislature was not a space for her to make change. “I haven’t seen anybody do anything differently.”

— Earlier at the Dewitt Park rally

ITHACA, N.Y. — Eileen Berlow’s father was born in Germany and had his citizenship taken away by Adolf Hilter’s Nazis. He was denied entry into the Unites States and England in 1938 and eventually sought refuge in the Philippines where he met her mother. Meanwhile, his relatives were killed at an Auschwitz concentration camp.

Berlow said she is appalled at the anti-semetic, racist, anti-woman movements that have been happening in the United States, in particular, the violence in Charlottesville that left one woman dead after white supremacist groups, such as Nazis and the KKK, clashed with counterprotesters.

“I am appalled…,” she said.

Ithaca activist Phoebe Brown took up the public spotlight after Berlow saying, “We fell asleep at the wheel. We need to admit it.”

But she said the problems in this country can’t be blamed on President Donald Trump — who many people say ignited the “alt-right” white supremacist movement with antagonist rhetoric about immigrants and people of color.

Trump said in a speech Saturday, “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides — on many sides.”

He did not directly decry white supremacists, many of whom supported his presidential campaign.

“We set the table for him…we need to accept responsibility for that,” Brown said.

And the solution, echoed by several other speakers, is to speak out about local indignities.

“What we have to give up is our silence,” Brown said.

More than 100 people are currently in attendance at the rally at Dewitt Park in downtown Ithaca Sunday night for a rally that will join a large vigil at 8:30 p.m. at the Bernie Milton Pavilion.

Jolene Almendarez

Jolene Almendarez is Managing Editor at The Ithaca Voice. She can be reached at jalmendarez@ithacavoice.com; you can learn more about her at the links in the top right of this box.