Local protestors demonstrated in Fairport Sunday afternoon, hoping to send a clear message: White supremacy isn’t welcome here. Dozens of protestors showed up, holding up signs and chanting. They walked through the village and also held speeches.
But Anna Givens said she wasn’t just mad about the harmful ideologies, she’s frustrated she’s protesting this in 2017.
“It’s 2017 and ridiculous we have to have a protest to tell the world that genocidal ideologies are wrong,” she said. She was holding a sign that said needing these protests showed the world had “lost its humanity.”
“It’s scary when you realize this could happen here,” said Molly Lewis-Shakes who’s also a resident of Fairport. “I think it always feels so far away but I think we forget it happens here and it’s up to us to make sure it doesn’t take hold.”
The rally followed a string of national demonstrations in response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia where there was the largest public demonstration of white supremacists and Ku Klux Klan members in decades mid-August. They were protesting the removal of a General Robert E. Lee memorial and anti-fascists groups were protesting them. The tense protests devolved into deadly violence when James Alex Fields Jr. plowed his car into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer.
And it’s not just a “Southern” thing. Locally, Honeoye Falls resident Jarrod Kuhn was identified in a photo as an attendant, protesting the removal of the statue and wanting to preserve Confederate history. Flyers went up around his neighborhood identifying him as a Nazi though he’s repeatedly stated he was there to “preserve his history.”
The rally in Fairport was perhaps particularly necessary in light of recent incidences there. This year, during a lacrosse game against Brighton High School, members of the varsity team made anti-Semitic comments. And nationwide, the Southern Law Poverty Center estimates that hate groups have been on the rise for years but the election of President Donald Trump, many experts and activists say, sanctioned these beliefs giving them power. For instance, the number of anti-Muslim groups tripled from 34 in 2015 to 101 last year.
However, local suburban residents have rallied often, making it clear these hateful beliefs won’t take root and become public. When Brighton and Pittsford residents saw Make Rochester White Again flyers, they rallied then, bringing out more than 200 people in a demonstration.
Protests, said Givens, are necessary.
“The value of protesting is not only does it promote democracy and democratic ideals we were raised with such as our First Amendment rights it also is a way to peacefully change conditions around us,” she said. “It’s a way to bring about change without violence, which is important to me.”