Hundreds in Pittsfield and Williamstown rally against racism, for victims in Charlottesville

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"Teach love, not hate." "True patriots are for each other." "White silence = white violence."

Berkshire-area residents on Sunday afternoon let their homemade signs speak to their outrage over the deadly clash of white nationalists and anti-racism protesters in Virginia over the weekend.

"I'm embarrassed to be white, having grown up in a multiracial area [of New York City,]" said Monica Helm of Petersburg N.Y., across the border from Williamstown. "There's still a lot of racism in this country."

Racism and hate are something Erik Anderson from Pittsfield is willing to face down.

"We're here showing we're not afraid," he said with daughter Luci on his shoulders at Park Square in Pittsfield.

An estimated 200 men, women and children lined Field Park in Williamstown, with a similar size crowd in Pittsfield, also waved the American flag or sang of unity in the wake of an apparent white supremacist allegedly plowing his vehicle into the protesters on Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., killing one woman and injuring at least 19 others, according to The Associated Press. Police have charged James Alex Fields Jr. with second-degree murder and other felony counts in what federal authorities say may result in a civil rights investigation.

Helm's niece, 14-year-old Madison Helm, felt for the victims of the attack.

"The world is really messed up," she said. "We need to be there for other people."

Thanks to social media, the two rallies quickly gather steamed, held some 24 hours after the latest example of the racial divide in the U.S.

"I think the outrage was immediate and palpable — and it should be," said Rabbi Rachel Barenblat of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams.

Many motorists driving by both rallies loudly honked their horns in support of their anti-hate/racism message.

Rev. Libby Wade, interim pastor at St. John's Episcopal Church in Williamstown, knows such hatred having grown up in Hayneville Ala., halfway between Montgomery and Selma, both scenes of racial violence in the 1960s.

"We can't go back to that vitriol. Hate never really left us," she noted.

Some partially blame President Donald Trump for history repeating itself. They believe Trump's tone, along with his policies that could hurt minorities has sparked a rise in hate-crime related violence.

"He shouldn't be president. His campaign was based on hatred and suppression," said a local college student who didn't want to be identified.

In Pittsfield a number of young people locked arms, chanting, "The people united will never be defeated." They also swayed and sang several songs of unity such as "We Shall Overcome" and "God Bless America."

Taryn Martin from Richmond held a message for hatemongers "Closed minds should have closed mouths," read her sign.

"It feels like we're going backwards like the '60s. This [hatred] shouldn't be happening in the 21st century," she said.

Reach staff writer Dick Lindsay at 413-496-6233


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