Reaction to Charlottesville
Over the weekend, as the 34th Musikfest celebration came to an end, Bethlehem Police Chief Mark DiLuzio had just one word to describe it: “Great!” During the 10-day festival, more than 1.2 million people visited the Christmas City. Only 36 people were arrested, mostly for public drunkenness.
But 309 miles away in Charlottesville, Va., a “Unite the Right” rally ended in tragedy. Three people died. Dozens more were injured. President Donald Trump first said “both sides” were to blame, then blamed white supremacists and the KKK. He has since returned to saying that “both sides” are responsible.
How did Bethlehem respond?
By holding hands. By praying.
That’s what happened Tuesday afternoon at a 5 p.m. rally called by civil rights champion Esther Lee, who is also president of Bethlehem’s NAACP. Nearly 60 people attended. They included area clergymen, Bethlehem City officials and the Sierra Club’s Don Miles.
“We here in Bethlehem condemn acts of hatred and are deeply saddened by the loss of life,” said Bathlehem Mayor Bob Donchez. “We need to show those who divide us that we will not be divided. Tonight, we are one with Charlottesville and its citizens.”
Police Chief Mark DiLuzio said we have devolved into a nation of “name callers.” He said his father is probably “rolling over in his grave at the sight of American citizens giving a Nazi salute.” His father, a World War II vet, was one of the 43,000 allied soldiers who landed on Omaha Beach because he did not want Nazism to come to the United States.
“Well, Dad, it isn’t coming here,” DiLuzio said, adding people throughout the nation are rising up to say, “We will not stand for or agree with your hatred and prejudice.”
Speaking for the Sierra Club, Miles read a statement that white supremacists are not patriots, but rather “vile and unacceptable racists preaching hatred and division that stands in opposition to the values of equality and justice.”
He added, “Those who spew white supremacy feel empowered now when they see allies in the corridors of power.”
The Rev. Anthony Pompa, dean and rector of Cathedral Church of the Nativity, said that, in the end, “it’s all about love. If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.”
Holding the American flag in her hand, Cordelia Miller, Bethlehem NAACP vice president, said, “This flag stands for something, or it should.”
Lee noted that Trump is the people’s representative and was puzzled that he did not immediately condemn the racism.
“I am very concerned about what he has not said,” she observed.