Bel Air vigil for Charlottesville victims draws more than 200

More than 200 people gathered in Bel Air Sunday to remember those killed and injured in Charlottesville, Va. (David Anderson/BSMG)

More than 200 people gathered in Rockfield Park in Bel Air Sunday evening to express their shock and grief over those killed and injured in clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va. the day before.

The Bel Air vigil, organized by the group Together We Will - Harford County Upper Chesapeake, was one of a number of similar events that happened across the country Sunday in response to the violence.


"When we combine together, I totally believe that we can move mountains and that is what I want to do, and I am really glad that you are here because I think that's what you guys want to do, too," DeLane Lewis, founder of the Harford affiliate of Together We Will, told the crowd.

A 32-year-old woman was killed and 19 more people injured when a driver slammed his vehicle into a crowd of people, an act some elected officials have described as terrorism. Two Virginia State Police troopers were also killed when their helicopter crashed near the site of the protests.

Right-wing activists, members of the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis descended on Charlottesville and the University of Virginia campus over the weekend to protest the removal of a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee from a municipal park.

People gathered in Rockfield Park in Bel Air Sunday evening to pay tribute to those killed in clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va.
People gathered in Rockfield Park in Bel Air Sunday evening to pay tribute to those killed in clashes between white nationalists and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Va. (David Anderson / Baltimore Sun Media Group)

A series of violent clashes erupted between the two groups on city streets, leading the Virginia governor to declare a state of emergency. The people were struck by the vehicle as they were leaving the area.

Those who gathered in Rockfield Park expressed not only their grief over the loss of life, but also a resolve to defeat the forces of white nationalism and to stand up for the minority groups who are the primary targets of racist violence.

"Just because our lives might be safe and whole, it was incumbent upon us to step forward for those who can't," Lewis said.

The crowd was made up of people of different races, faiths and ages — some parents held their children during the vigil while other children played nearby.

People held signs and flags and wore shirts bearing slogans such as "Resist," "Black Lives Matter," "Standing on the Side of Love" and "Hear Our Voice."

Members of the local clergy made remarks, as well as members of the public.

The Rev. Marlon Tilghman, pastor of Ames United Methodist Church in Bel Air, cited a quote from the late author Maya Angelou, about how people might forget what you said or did, but "people will never forget how you made them feel."

"Each and every last one of you right now are making me feel real good ... I see people of different ages, I see people of different ethnicities, I see people of different faiths, all in one place saying, 'You know what, enough is enough, we're tired of this hatred, we're tired of bigotry, we're tired of us being divided,'" Tilghman said.

The group sang songs such as "If I Had a Hammer," "This Land is Your Land" and "This Little Light of Mine."

"I urge all of you who have shown up today to show up every time," said Aravinda Pillalamarri, of Bel Air, who noted she used to live in Charlottesville.

Her 14-year-old daughter, Khiyali, also expressed her thoughts.


"You're not supposed to get plowed over for doing a protest," she said later.

Marla Posey-Moss, of Aberdeen, said she was moved to tears by the sight of people being mowed down by the vehicle.

"People have died for the right for you to fly whatever flag you want, to practice whatever religion you want, to go to public or private school, do anything but hurt others," she said. "Our Constitution was written for a reason."

Denisha Pendleton, of Bel Air, who is black, said she has trained her three sons on what to do if stopped by the police or are harassed because of the color of their skin. She noted she has faced harassment herself when riding her bike, such as name calling or spitting.

"This goes on because good people allow it — people see it, but they won't stand up because they don't want to have to be discriminated against," Pendleton said, noting people who are not black who stood up for her children faced harassment themselves.

Jeremy Diringer, a Towson resident, said that he had been raised to not get involved in matters that did not concern him and that "the system will take care of it."

"You can't just trust the world will take care of it," he said. "You have to be the one out there to take care of it; you have to be the one out there doing, acting."

Diringer cited a quote coined by the minister Theodore Parker and adopted by civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. — "The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice."

"It bends because you get up there and push it," Diringer said. "It does not bend on its own power, you have to be the action you want to see out there."

Harford County’s “Choose Civility” campaign kicked off with a breakfast event at the Water’s Edge Events Center in Belcamp on Wednesday.