Nancy Neafie Park was aglow with candlelight Sunday night.
About 30 residents stood together in vigil for the victims of the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that led to tragedy Saturday.
Mari Butler, a member of the Southeast Iowa Young Progressives, who planned the vigil, welcomed people to stand in a circle.
“Tonight we are here for Charlottesville,” Butler said. “We are here not to condemn violence on many sides, but on one side — the side of racism and white supremacy. We are here to pay tribute to the counter protestors who lost their lives.”
Alexandra Rucinski, another member of the Southeast Iowa Young Progressives, reflected how she felt in November when President Donald Trump was elected. She said her biggest fear came to reality Saturday.
“I knew that when the nation accepted that it would embolden some of the ugliest parts of this country and our history,” Rucinski said. “And people who are hateful are going to feel like they could come out and be open with their hate in a way that I don’t think we have seen before. At least some of us younger ones have not seen like this.”
However, even some of those who have been around longer showed a deep sadness toward the political and social climate that reminded the nation of it’s existence through the violence in Charlottesville.
Joni Gillispie has been involved in political action since she was 12 years old and worked on Hubert Humphrey’s presidential campaign. She showed up to the park early to remove negative energy from the space with sage, saying it would help the positive energy channeled through the candlelight vigil to travel further.
“It’s 2017. Enough is enough,” she said.
Gillispie said what happened in Charlottesville could happen in Burlington just as easily. She said small towns are particularly vulnerable to lacking exposure to different perspectives and children must be taught diversity and respect at young ages.
Several people noted how hard teaching that lesson can be, when they do not think those in the White House illustrate it.
“45 has no problem with saying Islamic terror,” said Ryan Rogers of Burlington. “Why can’t he say anything about white terror? Because that is what this is.”
Councilwoman Annie Wilson spoke to the group, saying the growing need for vigils like this one breaks her heart. She said she wished she would only have to see the people gathered Sunday night at the Farmer’s Market or in the shops on Jefferson Street and not under such somber circumstances.
Despite that, however, she said she wished more people would participate in such events.
More specifically, reaching out to diverse populations. Rucinski made sure to point out the fact the candlelight vigil was composed entirely of white people.
“That is something we need to be extremely aware of,” Rucinski said. “We all have really good intentions, but I think it is important that we start to see these people here with us.”
After those who wished to speak were heard, Butler concluded the vigil with the famous Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. quote, “Darkness can not drive out darkness. Only light can do that. Hate can not drive out hate. Only love can do that.”
“So I hope that even though we are all very sad, and white supremacy and racism is really scary, that we can leave here, and we are not going to be afraid,” Butler said. “And we are going to fight the darkness and hate with love and light instead. I think that is the only thing we can do.”