Somerset County News

Somerville Rally Decries Racism, Bigotry; Speakers Urge Resolve to Unite and Overcome

Dr. Tulsi Maharjan, wearing sunglasses, with members of the Somerset County Cultural Diversity Coalition, speaks at Monday's rally in Somerville. Credits: Rod Hirsch
From left, Somerville resident Art Adair; Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher, Rev. Paul Janssen, Somerville Borough Council president Steve Peter, Rev. Ron Pollock and Rep. Leonard Lance. Credits: Rod Hirsch
Somerville Mayor Brian Gallagher addresses the rally from the steps of the historic Somerset County Courthouse in Somerville. Credits: Rod Hirsch
Part of the crowd at Monday night's Community for Unity rally in Somerville. Credits: Rod Hirsch
Rev. Ron Pollock, pastor of St. John's Episcopal Church in Somerville, offers a prayer during Monday's rally. Credits: Rod Hirsch
New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7th Credits: Rod Hirsch
State Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-16th Credits: Rod Hirsch
Heba Macksoud, board member of the Islamic Society of Central New Jersey addresses the Somerville rally. Credits: Rod Hirsch
State Sen. Raymond "Kip" Bateman (R-Somerset, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Mercer). Credits: Rod Hirsch
Rev. Paul Janssen, pastor of the United Reformed Church in Somerville addresses the rally in Somerville Monday night. Credits: Rod Hirsch

SOMERVILLE, NJ - They came from different walks of life, different cultures, from different sides of the political aisle and different houses of worship.

Some were immigrants, some black, some white, some were Asian and Latino.

Others were gay.

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Men and women, young and old, different from one another but for one common bond - all were Americans.

Several hundred people attended Monday night's "Community for Unity Rally - a Call to Action" at the historic Somerset County Courthouse where they heard more than one dozen speakers decry racism, bigotry and hatred while underscoring the need for decency, respecting different cultures, different political persausions, different religions and differences of opinion.

The speakers were united in their urgency to stand up to those who feel and act otherwise. 

Much of the dialogue echoed on the themes of tolerance and inclusion, peaceful dissent and civil justice espoused by the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The rally celebrated the 54th anniversary of King's defining "I Have a Dream" speech in 1963 on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC.

Speakers included Dr. Tulsi Maharjan, Somerset County Cultural Diversity Coalition; State Sen. Christopher "Kip" Bateman, R-16; Assemblyman Andrew Zwicker, D-16th; Joe Forte - secretary of the. NJ LGBT Democratic Caucus Victory Fund Campaign Board; M. Ali Chaudry - president, Islamic Society of Basking Ridge and co-Founder, NJ Interfaith Coalition; Rabbi Dan Selsberg, Temple Sholom; Ron Isaacs, Rabbi Emeritus.Temple Sholom; Mark Williams, member AACT-NOW; Karen Gaffney - Professor of English, Raritan Valley Community College and author of soon-to-be-released, "Dismantling the Racism Machine: A Manual and Toolbox;" Carina Gonzalez, Outreach Librarian and professor at RVCC; Aldo Martinez, immigration attorney; Rev. Paul Janssen, United Reform Church; Rev. Ron Pollock, St. John's Episcopal Church; Heba Macksoud, Islamic Society of Central Jersey and New Jersey Rep. Leonard Lance, R-7th.
The rally organizers - Kristen Mehrbach, Donna Volpe, Andrea Stathatos, Michelle Edgar, Karen Gaffney and Jen Kitchen - were moved by the violence in Charlottesville, Va., earlier this month and felt the need to bring people together to repudiate the actions of the Neo-Nazis and White Supremacists who grabbed the headlines and dominated the news cycle.
Isaacs set the tone for Monday night's rally reading from "We Will Not Yield," a prayer after Charlottesville:

"Today, I am neither Democrat nor Republican, Neither left nor right, nor center.

I am an American, Born to a legacy of truth and justice, Born to a legacy of freedom and equality.

Today, I am a Patriot, who will not yield this nation to hate.

Not to Neo-Nazis, Not to thugs self-styled as militia. Not to slogans or chants. Not to gestures or flags. Not to threats and not to violence.

Hate is hate, Ugly and brutal, and we will not yield.

Today I am a Christian, Muslim and Jew, Catholic, Buddhist, Hindu and Sikh, Atheist and agnostic.

I am Asian, Latino, Hispanic, African-American, White, Native American and multi-racial.

I am an immigrant, a child of the American Revolution, a veteran and a soldier. I work in the dark depth of the mines and the high towers of Wall Street, in the factories and the farms.

I am gay, lesbian, straight, bi, trans, Man, woman and gender-neutral. I am young, old, blind and deaf, Hearing and sighted, Disabled, Powerful and unafraid.

Truth is truth, That all are created equal, and we will not yield.

Today, I am an American, a citizen of the United States, A child of this great Democracy, A child of this wise republic, Dedicated to liberty, Dedicated to action.

We will not yield."

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