"No hate. No fear. Get those racists out of here."
That was the message that approximately two dozen demonstrators delivered during an anti-racism rally and march on Sunday in Niagara Falls to mark the one-year anniversary of the deadly protests in Charlottesville, Va., where a coalition of white supremacist groups clashed with anti-racist and anti-fascist protesters. Heather Heyer, 32, was killed when a self-professed white supremacist drove a car into Heyer and 20 other protesters.
Members of Showing Up for Racial Justice organized and participated in Sunday's local march. Like similar gatherings across the country, the idea was to show a gesture of solidarity with those who addressed hate and racism in Charlottesville.
"It was a terrifying day," said Erin Heaney, a 31-year-old Buffalo resident who was among the anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville on that fateful day. "White supremacists were committing acts of violence on the streets. We're here today in solidarity with the people in Charlottesville."
The march began at about 5:30 p.m. outside First Unitarian Universalist Church on Main Street.
"I'm a believer in standing up for justice. People have become so nasty and especially to people who are different," said 82-year-old Elizabeth Diachun, a Lewiston resident since 1961. "I feel it's very appropriate to take some action in memory of the victims and the whole idea of white supremacy. It just makes me sick. It just isn't right. It's not going to help anything."
Roger Glasgow, 70, carried a sign that read "No Nazis. No KKK. NO racists USA!"
Glasgow, who had worked in Niagara Falls for 20 years, said he was upset with the incidences of deadly racism happening in the country.
"These days, a traffic stop shouldn't mean a death sentence," he said.
"People have to come out and oppose white supremacy shenanigans when it happens," said 45-year-old Clifford Parks Jr., of Buffalo.
The demonstration in the Falls also was about racism and intolerance locally. Protesters stopped the procession and held a vigil in front of the shuttered Rust Bar at 462 Third St., a site where a white man was beaten earlier this year while visiting with his African-American girlfriend. The victim suffered a facial fracture after what police reported was an unprovoked attack that may have been racially motivated.
"We remember what happened in Niagara Falls," said Diachun, who read a quote during the vigil by civil rights activist Anne Braden.
"The battle is and always has been a battle for the hearts and minds of white people in this country," Diachun read. "The fight against racism is our issue. It's not something that we're called on to help people of color with. We need to become involved with it as if our lives depended on it. Because really, in truth, they do."