YAKIMA, Wash. -- On Friday evening more than 80 peaceful protesters stood on the corners of Yakima Avenue and First Street downtown to proclaim their opposition to racism in the wake of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville last weekend that left one woman dead and several injured.
Waving signs that included slogans such as “Yakima Rejects Hatred,” “We Are All Equal,” and “Many sides: 1) Nazis 2) Decent human beings,” the group encouraged passing motorists to honk in support.
Many did, although a few shouted derisively. One driver in a black truck circled a few times, disputing the signs through a loudspeaker that sounded like a bullhorn.
Rochelle Dunmore, one of the founders of the group Act Yakima, which organized the rally, said the goal was to give more people a chance to get involved.
“A lot of people are really dismayed with what’s going on, seeing neo-Nazis marching in the streets and white supremacists,” she said. “They’re scared; they don’t know what they can do.”
Dunmore’s sign said “Not Why I Served,” a reference to her time in the Navy during the Gulf War. She was injured and is now a disabled veteran, she said. Her husband and daughter also served in the military.
“I’m glad I’m not in now,” she said. “The rhetoric would concern me — what direction we might take. I have children of friends who are serving and they’re really concerned; they don’t know what may happen.”
Robert Strader, who has come to many similar rallies since the inauguration, said he feels it’s important to make a public statement against racism so that victims know they’re not alone.
“It’s good for us to be here; it’s good for vehicles to be honking; it’s good to all get together for this,” he said.
Some participants brought their young children to the rally, including Alicia Alhale, whose 7-year-old Kaya was also holding a sign.
“I’m just disgusted that it’s 2017 and we still have to put up with racism,” she said. “I’m trying to teach my daughter that color doesn’t matter.”
Jessica Gempler had her daughter with her, too, though her daughter is 24.
Gempler’s sign said “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention,” echoing the final Facebook status of Heather Heyer, who was killed when a driver drove into a crowd of anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville.
“I came out because it’s important for me as a white woman to not remain silent anymore,” she said. “My kids are biracial. They have grown up in a Valley where their skin color can be a detriment to them.”
She wanted to participate in the public rally because, she said, “liking” posts she agrees with on Facebook is not enough.
“We need to be in a physical place so people in this community (with racist views) can see that there are other people that don’t agree with them,” Gempler said.