AUBURN — Dozens of people — of all ages, genders, races and occupations — gathered Monday night in front of the Harriet Tubman Memorial Mosaic in downtown Auburn to stand in solidarity with Charlottesville, Virginia.
Those who attended held up homemade signs and electric candles, speaking out against bigotry and hatred in America. Auburn Community Chorus members Stephanie DeVito and Rhoda Overstreet-Wilson led the crowd in song, singing uplifting and unifying songs such as "This Little Light of Mine" and "This Land is Your Land."
Auburn resident Jim Spencer held up a poster board sign that read "Only love is the answer" in green block lettering.
"How on earth can someone, any group of people, fuel themselves with enough hatred to go out and commit acts against other people? People are people, regardless of shape, race, age, color," Spencer said. "Everybody's just people."
While Auburn's gathering was small compared to other cities, Spencer said it is a group's intent, not its size, that matters in the end.
"If one person drives by and goes 'Hey, check this out' and changes how they think about race, religion, et cetera, then mission accomplished," he said.
Kentucky woman Kim Edwards grew up in Skaneateles and is currently visiting Cayuga County. She said she would have participated in a solidarity vigil if she was back home and when she found out about Auburn's, she was eager to join.
"I wanted to come and say that I don't want hate to take root in our country," Edwards said.
Auburn City Councilor Debby McCormick shared similar sentiments with the group that gathered.
"To have everybody come together like this is a big deal," McCormick said. "It's great to live in a community that welcomes people and treats people with respect. We've got to appreciate that and stand up for the people who don't live in the same kind of atmosphere that we do."
The vigil was organized by Debra Rose Brillati, a member of Celebrate! Diverse Auburn. Brillati said she wanted to organize an event against hatred and bigotry in Auburn after she heard the news of the violence in Charlottesville over the weekend.
"It's really difficult that we're still fighting the same struggles but I think all of us here are here because we don't want to be discouraged and we do that by giving one another hope," Brillati said to the crowd. "By being together, we're stronger."
Brillati said she was pleased with the vigil's turnout, especially given the short notice.
"To me, this was grassroots, it was the community working," Brillati said. "Everybody played a part."