By JOHN GORALSKI
The chant rang out from a group of more than 50 people gathered on the steps of the First Congregational Church. “No place for hate,” they began to chant, and their cries quickly drowned out the hum of nearby traffic.
On Saturday, March 19, a small crowd of local residents and clergy huddled in the cold, clutching signs about peace and love. They joined in speeches and songs directed against a recent discovery of fliers at two YMCA facilities across town that contained Nazi imagery and racist propaganda.
Police are investigating the incidents, but protesters decided to speak out about the message.
“We are here today to make a strong and decisive stance,” said Pastor Joshua Rinas of the First Lutheran Church. “We are here to stand up and say that this community will not be divided. We are going to be a community of love.”
The church has been the site of previous protests against racial injustice in town, and the town green has been the site of other rallies, including a 9/11 vigil.
Town Councilor Rev. Victoria Triano said that, with more time, this protest could have filled the town green. Triano said that every time that there is an incident like this, she believes that people will come out to protest.
“This town stands solidly against any type of bigotry or hatred,” she said. “Where ever it is, we will stand together. We will turn the tide of hatred. We’ve done it before. We’re doing it now, and we’ll stand ready to do it tomorrow.”
Southington police are still investigating complaints from local residents after finding racist fliers on their vehicles on Friday, March 11 and Saturday, March 12. The top of the flier has the words “American Nazi Party.” Below that is a swastika with the words “White Power.” Below the swastika was an email address.
One flier was found on a vehicle that was parked at the Southington YMCA on High Street and the other was found on a vehicle parked at the Southington YMCA Gymnastics center on Putnam Place.
The incidents sparked Saturday’s protest. The event was coordinated quickly by local residents Laura Urbino and Kelly Stuper, along with support from local clergy and town officials. The announcement of the protest was timed along with an open letter from the Southington Interfaith Clergy Association denouncing the fliers. (See page 8)
“To take a stand against any type of segregation is what our community stands for,” said Stuper. “We want to get back to the grassroots and the mission of this community: love, respect, unity.”
Police are conducting extra checks of both areas. No witnesses to the initial incidents were located.
Anyone with any information is asked to contact the Southington Police Department at (860) 621-0101.
Photos by JOHN GORALSKI
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