At 20, Fatima Gomez has always thought of Nazi and KKK rallies as something she would read about in history class. So the white nationalist demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia, Saturday shocked her.
“I never thought I would experience in my lifetime seeing something like this,” she said.
As a person of color she felt she needed to get off her couch and do something. So she attended a rally against hate Monday in front of the Douglas County Courthouse in Roseburg.
About 90 people joined the rally, bearing signs saying things like “Resist Hate” and “We Stand with Charlottesville.”
“There’s tremendous hatred in this country that I call home. We’re in 2017. This shouldn’t be a thing anymore,” Gomez said.
The demonstration was organized by Common Ground Coalition of Douglas County.
Chairwoman Alana Lenihan said the idea began with three people communicating online, saying they felt they needed to do something after the white nationalist event, which ended in the death of a counter-protester.
“I know that a lot of people were really struggling emotionally with what happened,” she said.
Lenihan gave a short speech in which she denounced the violence that led to the death of Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer, after a white nationalist allegedly plowed his car into a group of counter-protesters.
Lenihan said she was hopeful because hundreds of rallies against racism had been held in communities around the country in response to Saturday’s events.
“It’s important that we unite and send a message to other racists and fascists out there we will win, and we are bonded together in our commitment against oppression. We need to remember that we are a community first and that’s what matters, and everyone in our community deserves a voice,” Lenihan said.
Afterward, most of the people at the rally marched around the courthouse lawn, many carrying signs and chanting slogans like “Resist, resist, Americans against hate and violence.”
Retired Cpl. Jeremy Salter, a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, held a sign that said “Stop Pretending Your Racism is Patriotism.”
“We’re really seeing a disgusting side of the country,” he said of the events in Charlottesville. He wished he could say he was surprised by what happened Saturday, but he wasn’t.
Salter said when he served America, he served all Americans, regardless of race or national origin.
“That’s all secondary,” he said. “We’re all Americans first.”
Emmett Myers, 18, said it was important to him to attend and stand up for people’s rights.
“As a transgender individual that’s dating a Latina girl, this affected me emotionally,” he said. “I needed to be here to emotionally connect with people who agreed with me.”
Virginia Roth, co-founder of Indivisible Roseburg, said everyone in that group was encouraged to join the rally.
“We’re really incensed about the Charlottesville event and how (President Donald) Trump hasn’t come out and said anything against the white nationalists. We’re really upset about that,” she said.
She said what she wanted the president to say was that “white nationalists definitely have no place in our democracy.”
Racisim is hateful and evil, she said, and should be stomped out.
Trump was criticized for his Saturday remarks about the incident, in which he condemned “hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” instead of singling out white nationalists. On Monday, he directly criticized hate groups like the KKK and neo-Nazis, saying “racism is evil” and called people who cause violence in its name “criminals and thugs.”
Jane Addis Docken said she was horrified when she found out what happened in Charlottesville.
“I think it’s a scary time for people of color,” she said.
John Aschim said what happened in Virginia this weekend “needs to be protested by all responsible citizens.”
Fawn Newton held up a sign saying “LOVE,” while Rindy Hart held up one saying “We are Love.”
“We’re trying to spread some love in a world that’s gone really cold,” Hart said.