Home News Local News Responding to Charlottesville, residents plan to gather in Mitchell Park tonight to...

Responding to Charlottesville, residents plan to gather in Mitchell Park tonight to stand against extremism

Marchers at Unite the Right rally yesterday in Charlottesville, Virginia Photo: Emily Molli/AP

Greenport residents are working to organize a rally in Mitchell Park tonight at 6 p.m. to stand against white nationalist extremism and the tragedy yesterday in Charlottesville.

The idea for the rally started with Christine McFall of Cutchogue, who said she saw a call on Facebook to march against hatred in local communities. She decided to take up the cause.

“I’m shocked that I’m even doing this,” said McFall, a landscape designer. “I’m not an organizer.”

Moved by “the terrorist attack against one of our citizens” in Charlottesville yesterday, which she said “demonstrates the rise of fascism and hatred in our country,” McFall decided she needed to act.

“I’m hoping that people will come and show up and stand for freedom and unity and civil rights,” McFall said.

Jim Shaw of Greenport says he will attend. “This is happening out of frustration and disgust that it’s 2017 and we’re still fighting against hate and bigotry,” Shaw said. “And we seem to be getting very little support from our elected officials.”

Shaw said the statement made yesterday by President Donald Trump as “weak.” He criticized Trump’s failure to clearly denounce white nationalism and saying there was blame on “many sides.”

The president’s statement yesterday drew criticism from a host of people, including Republican members of Congress, for not denouncing white nationalism specifically and saying “many sides” are to blame for the violence that occurred in Charlottesville.

The Neo-Nazi Daily Stormer website praised the president’s response.

“Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us,” the website posted yesterday in a “live update” thread on the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville.

The president “implied the antifa are haters” and “refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him. No condemnation at all. When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room,” the Daily Stormer post reads. “Really, really good. God bless him.”

Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley) was not among the president’s critics nor did he specifically condemn white nationalist ideology in a statement issued yesterday evening in which he decried the “violent acts inspired by deep hatred,” calling them “disgusting, un-American, and unwelcome in our great nation.”

But on his Facebook page last night, Zeldin, who is Jewish, called out the far-right extremists: “Anyone associating themselves with the KKK and Nazism is associating themselves with hatred, bigotry, racism, intolerance and a tremendously inhumane past filled with horrible evil,” he wrote.

Sonia Spar of Southold, who works for the Anti-Defamation League and is co-chairperson of the Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force, said the ADL has been “following the rise of extremist groups for the past two years.” They have been “emboldened and feel empowered,” she said.

“It’s not just the KKK,” she said. “The whole white supremacist-extremist ideology is being rebranded.” And it is finding new support among youth.

“It was deeply troubling the ages of the people marching yesterday,” Spar said. “The faces of the people marching for white nationalism were in their early 20s. The person who rammed the crowd with the car is 20 years old.” James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio was arrested and charged with second-degree murder.

White nationalism is something that everyone must condemn, Spar said.

“The moral voice of everyone at every single level is important, not just our political leadership, not just our clergy, but every single one of us must stand up against hatred. That’s why this rally is important,” she said.

“Our children are watching and we need to send them a clear message,” Spar said.

Editor’s note: This article has been amended post-publication to correct the misidentification of Sonia Spar as an attorney with the Anti-Defamation League. She works for the ADL but is not an attorney. Also, she lives in Southold, not Greenport as originally reported.

Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter and editor, an attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including a “writer of the year” award from the N.Y. Press Association in 2015. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.