A banner in a Ferndale church sent a hopeful message the day after white supremacists marched in Virginia, and unwittingly, so did some of the headgear.
Some 500 people packed First United Methodist on Woodward Avenue Sunday in a quickly organized response to the violence that broke out in Charlottesville as latter-day Nazis marched in protest against the planned removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
Many in the Ferndale gathering signed their names or left messages on a broad piece of white vinyl bearing the large hand-written words, “Love is Bigger.” Among them was a rabbi in a yarmulke who sat one row ahead of an African-American woman in a bright pink church hat, and who later chatted on the sidewalk with a woman in a multicolored hijab.
“This is what America looks like,” said Rabbi Dorit EdutCQ of the Detroit Interfaith Outreach Network. “Please, God, listen to us.”
Jill Warren, the wife of the church’s pastor, organized the rally on the spur of the moment Saturday. She said she was hoping to promote diversity, peace and justice while mourning the three casualties in Virginia and raising collective voices against the white supremacy movement.
“I couldn’t stop being gripped by all this horribleness,” she said, so she began thumping the drum on social media: “I said, ‘Please share the hell out of it.’”
Other rallies took place in Dearborn, downtown Detroit, Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo. In Dearborn, where U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell, D-Dearborn, was one of the speakers, organizer Mary Kay Kubicek said she considered the supremacist rally in Virginia to be an affront to her city and its large population of Arabs and Muslims.
In Detroit, the City Council condemned the violence, saying city leaders will work to embrace “our differences that make us stronger.”
The Detroit Red Wings organization responded quickly to the use of its logo by some of the supremacists, condemning the appropriation and adding that it was exploring legal action.
Nationally, rally sites included Chicago; Philadelphia; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Pasadena, California; and Harrisonburg, Virginia.
Harrisonburg sits an hour northwest of Charlottesville, where police say a driver with white supremacist connections drove into a line of counter-protesters and killed a marcher named Heather Heyer while injuring at least 19 others.
Heyer’s name appeared on a sign at the Ferndale rally, where other signs assailed President Donald Trump while Dana Lange of Clinton Township held a red-on-black placard that read, “Your Silence Will Not Save You.”
She was referring, she said, to “the people who say it’s not my business, it’ll go away. The people who say wait four years, it’ll go away.”
Lange, 34, said she hoped everyone at the gathering would remain vocal after they left.
“It doesn’t mean anything if you don’t talk about it,” she said. “Racists feel emboldened. We need to feel emboldened.”
Dozens of people remained outside during the rally, and the sound of car horns endorsing their message blared through the open windows of the church. Inside, voices rose from the nave and the balcony in a response to Rev. Robert Schoenhals. “We are all siblings. We are all related. We are all your children.”
At one point, Schoenhals asked if there was a pianist in the house to accompany the vocalizing of “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” Piano instructor Rachel Morin of Troy volunteered, but befitting the hurried nature of the event, she found the piano locked.
“I just hate what’s going on,” she said. Like numerous others in the church, she connected dots from Trump’s past comments about registering Muslims or banning immigration to the ease with which the white supremacists left themselves open to identification.
The wide array of rally speakers included clergy members, the 70-year-old son of a World War II veteran, a young girl who read a poem and Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter, who said afterward that his presence was intended to make a statement.
“It’s important that the mayor says you are welcome here, no matter who you are,” he said. “It’s also important that we don’t become numb to things like yesterday. All people, including elected leaders, need to continue to point out that this is not normal and not acceptable.”
Edut, the rabbi, expressed her feelings in Hebrew on the banner. She repeated, she said, what Moses said to Joshua:
“Be strong and of good courage and we will strengthen each other.”