ELIZABETH, NJ - State Assemblyman Jamel Holley (D-Union) joined a small group who held a prayer vigil last night in response to the deadly rally in Charlottesville, Va. nearly a week ago.
On Friday, protesters chanting neo-Nazi and white supremacist slogans gathered in the Virginia city to rally against the removal of a Confederate general's statue. James Alex Fields Jr., was reportedly arrested Saturday in connection with the death of Heather Heyer after a car plowed into her and a group of counter protesters.
“We're never going to get rid of those that hate, but we don't need to tolerate it either,” Holley said through a loudspeaker at the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial across from City Hall. “And silence is something that does not need to exist. If you see it, you say something and call them out. Because what's going on this country -- and they're living amongst us here in Union County too -- we've got to put a stop to that.”
Holley, the district’s first African American assemblyman, also reminded people to “love one another.”
About 10 people gathered for the vigil yesterday at Winfield Scott Plaza, which was organized by 17-year-old Kason Little. He founded the Students of Elizabeth Advisory Committee, an organization in Elizabeth that encourages students to be active in the community.
“I find it extremely important that we speak up for what's right,” said Little. “Because if we don't, we are still a part of what's wrong. ”
The events in Virginia conjured memories of past racial violence for some who attended last night’s vigil. Salaam Ismial, a local activist, recalled how his mother once told him about a lynching she witnessed at 13-years-old during the 1940s in Mississippi.
“She said, that's why today, son, I'm involved in the social justice movement,” Ismial recalled his mom, who died in 2006, saying to him. “I’ll never forget that.”
President Donald Trump on Monday said not all the people who were protesting the removal of the Robert E. Lee's statue in Virginia were white supremacists or neo-Nazis. He also said there were some “very fine” and “very violent” people on “both sides” of the protests.
Ismial, who heads an organization called the National United Youth Council, plans to hold a peace vigil at the Trenton statehouse on Aug. 26 at 1 p.m. He said transportation to that vigil will be available at the Erxleben Recreation Center at 513 Richmond St.