AUGUSTA — Emily Bessey of Hallowell joined roughly 150 other people in front of the State House on Monday because she was disturbed by the violent, race-fueled clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, this weekend and wanted to stand against them.

She also wanted to show her 7-year-old daughter, Daisy, that there is a better way.

“It’s important to me to teach our children the voices of peace are stronger than the voices of hate,” Bessey said.

Bessey and the other people drawn to attend the Vigil Against Hate in solidarity with Charlottesville crowded onto the State Street sidewalk and lower section of the State House steps from 5:30 p.m. until past 7 p.m., singing songs and joining in chants, including “No hate! No fear! Everyone is welcome here!” and “Silence is violence, no justice, no peace.”

Standing alongside Daisy, who split her time between listening to the music with her mom and playing with other children in the grass, Bessey said the violence of the weekend’s events in Charlottesville, where one person was killed and 19 were injured when a white supremacist drove a car into a crowd, did make her consider what she’d do if things were to turn violent in Augusta.

“If something was escalating, obviously I’d put her safety above anything else, and get her out of there,” she said. “But, at the same time, we can’t let that stop us. We have to show up for each other.”

Matthew Lyon, of Oakland, carrying a sign that said “Rise up + Resist,” said he came to help make a statement that the violence and racism perpetrated in Charlottesville will not be accepted, nor should it be allowed to spread – which he warned it could if left unchecked.

“It could happen here, if people don’t rise up against what they’re selling,” he said. “Rise up, otherwise they’ll just mow us over.”

He believes President Trump “dropped the ball” when he spoke following the incident by not taking a clear, strong stand against those who instigated the violence.

On Monday, Trump spoke out more strongly, specifically against the white nationalist groups involved in the incidents, following criticism of his statement Saturday in which he spoke against the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

A Facebook page for the Augusta event encouraged people to come, “Stand with us against the rising tide of racism, nationalism and white supremacy highlighted this past weekend in Charlottesville. Show support for our brothers and sisters around the country who are resisting hate and coming together in love and compassion.”

The event was hosted by Capitol Area Indivisible, which describes itself as a grassroots organization working to protect human dignity for all, and as standing for legal, economic and environmental justice.

Jane Shain of Hallowell came to promote peace and kindness.

“It’s very sad we keep having to spread the word of love,” she said while standing on the sidewalk as many of the motorists passing by on State Street honked their horns. “What happened in Charlottesville broke my heart. I don’t know what compels people to think that is OK. I don’t want to get political, but somehow they feel empowered.”

A Capitol Police officer briefly spoke with people who appeared to have gathered in Capitol Park for the event, which is across the street from the spot the vigil later took place. Capitol Police officials could not be reached for comment Monday, regarding whether a permit had been granted for the event to take place in the park, or whether any special provisions were made in preparation for the vigil.

Singer and guitarist Elizabeth Leonard of Waterville played and encouraged participants to sing along on numerous civil rights and peace-related songs, including “We Shall Overcome,” “Different Ships,” “Amazing Grace,” and “This Land is Your Land.”

Signs carried at the event included several consisting of a simple white piece of paper with a red heart in the middle of it, as well as others with written sentiments, including “Stop the hatred,” “What would love do?” “White silence emboldens white supremacy, speak against racist hate,” “No Nazis, no hate, no KKK, no fascist USA,” “God creates and loves all people,” and “Hate has no home here.”

Keith Edwards can be contacted at 621-5647 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: kedwardskj

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