ROCKLAND — On Saturday, August 19, approximately 50 people gathered on the corners of Park and Main streets in Rockland with signs and placards to show solidarity with a simultaneous rally happening in Boston, where approximately 40,000 protestors gathered in the Boston Common and marched in the streets to protest a rally rumored to have been planned by white supremacist groups.
The Rockland rally took place alongside similar rallies over the weekend in Bangor, Kittery and Portland, one week after neo-Nazis, white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan members gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia.
Most of the crowd had heard about the rally planned loosely by a number of Midcoast peace activist groups.
The majority of drivers passing by within the span of two hours beeped and waved in support of the group standing there, with the occasional negative gestures of thumbs down and middle finger coming from certain stony-faced motorists.
“Most people have been very positive today,” said one of the organizers, Tim Sullivan. “But we had one guy who came up and started arguing with us. He said he wasn’t for Nazis and white supremacists, but that ‘both sides’ were at fault in Charlottesville. In this, you’re either on one side or the other. ”
The man echoed what President Donald Trump said in the wake of the Charlottesville clashes. First, Trump denounced in a tweet: “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets (sic) come together as one!” Later, Trump gave a public statement saying: “We condemn in the strong possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” using the term “many sides” multiple times, equivocating that anti-racism protestors, whom he termed ‘alt-left” had just as much blame to bear as the the “alt-right” fringe group of white supremacists who instigated the violence. After neo-Nazi websites praised Trump for not attacking racist groups, Trump later clarified his comments, denouncing racists and hate groups, but in the span of time it took to re-clarify earlier statements, a number of muddied messages had been interpreted across the country. Was Charlottesville’s violence over Southerners protesting the removal of Confederate statues or was it the a clash between KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups and those protesting their rhetoric?
Over the weekend, a heated debate broke out on the popular Midcoast Message Board about one Midcoast couple’s right to fly a Confederate flag amid counter-protests over its symbolism.
But the ongoing debate around the removal of Confederate flags and statues was not the central point of what Rockland’s rally was about. It was intended as a show of solidarity towards the rising acts of hate and racism that Americans have experienced since the election.
One of the protestors, Diane Smith, of Cushing said “I’m 72. I made the decision in eighth grade to do something about racial injustice.” Her sign listed a number of ways:
“We can retrain our brains: a racist thoughts comes along: replace it with love.
- Parents: teach love vs. bigotry
- Bankers: do not deny loans based on race
- Police: do not stop people based solely because of race.
- None of us: use racial slurs.
- Landlords: do not deny rentals based onr ace.
- Legislators: do not deny the right to vote based on race. Restore the Voting Rights Act.”
Carol Bachofner of Rockland said: “I’m here because of the racism in the Maine State Legislature. I’m Abenaki and we don’t have enough Native Americans represented as our legislation; they have no voice. That’s why I’m here today.”
Photos by Kay Stephens
Kay Stephens can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org