Hundreds gather at city hall vigil to protest bigotry in Charlottesville

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Elder Fred King of Calvary Community Church speaks at City Hall during the vigil being held in response to deaths in Charlottesville, Virginia. Sunday, August 13, 2017 Carla Clark | For The Republic

Hundreds of local residents gathered on the steps of Columbus City Hall to peacefully but loudly condemn the bigotry and racism displayed in Charlottesville, Virginia, calling for local, state and national representatives to join them.

“I wish all of you could stand here and see what I see,” Columbus Mayor Jim Lienhoop told the estimated 400 individuals who attended the vigil at 7 p.m. Sunday, organized only hours before through social media and word of mouth.

“I hope Columbus can be a leader,” he said of the city’s response to the violence in Charlottesville, where a car plowed into a crowd of people protesting a white nationalist rally Saturday, killing one person and injuring more than a dozen others.

Lienhoop pointed out to the crowd that the Civil War had ended more than a hundred years ago, yet there are still people who are trying to fight it over again.

The mayor pledged that the city will continue to lead the state in human rights, to make sure people understand the city’s commitment to standing against the kind of racial hatred exhibited in Charlottesville.

“Racial hatred has no place in our city, our country or our world,” the mayor said.

Lienhoop was one of about a half dozen speakers who addressed the crowd from the city hall steps. Many of those in attendance carried signs and American flags. There was a wide ethnic and age diversity of people at the vigil — there were babies being carried by their parents, youngsters carrying signs and senior citizens with peace signs on their T-shirts.

Kevin McCracken and his wife Laura, of Columbus, were holding a unique American flag, one with 38 stars that they had obtained on a visit to Gettysburg. The flag is a replica of what would have flown over Fort Sumter in the first battle of the Civil War.

“In some ways, it’s the opposite of the Confederate flag,” Kevin McCracken said as he held the flag in the crowd. “We see so many Confederate flags flying and we wondered what the opposite of that would look like.”

He said the couple went to the vigil to support equality, peace and unity.

For more on this story, see Monday’s Republic.

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Julie McClure is assistant managing editor of The Republic. She can be reached at jmcclure@therepublic.com or (812) 379-5631.