March Brings Both Hate, Peace
"Part of their goal is to incite people and we need to be guided by calm and love and respect for all humanity," said Jeff Stack.
Stack didn't yell with or at the protesters. Instead, he tried to calm those getting riled up and in each other's faces.
A little further back in the march Ashley Yates of the Legions of Black Collegians held her fist in the air for peace.
"I'm not going to give them the reaction that they're looking for, which is to see angry people," said Yates. "Of course I'm internally angry because any ignorance you're going to get angry at if you have the right sense of mind and you believe in it."
Yates like many in downtown Columbia stayed on the fringes of the march where she used the march as an opportunity to educate others she talked with downtown.
"Don't feed hate into the hate. Feed it with knowledge, feed it with intelligent discourse, feed it with conversation. Educate people so they know that when hate comes to their town they don't have to feed into it the way they're expected," said Yates.
Genelle Jackson decided to join the march and pass out flyers. When asked why she joined in she said "because we believe in this." After being asked what she believed in she said "our white race."
While the march directly encountered relatively few, they were there after all to communicate a message.
"They don't want the attention that we're not really taking them seriously," said Yates. "People aren't out here to hate, people aren't out here to get mad, people are out here to witness this and see that people do think like this and how to eradicate it."
Across town the message at Douglass Park was far from one of anger and hate, instead, it was a message of peace to erase racism.
"What we've been able to do as a community is to turn something that looked like it could be a really bad problem for us, something that we all hate to see come to Columbia, but turn it into Columbia's advantage," said Columbia Mayor Darwin Hindman.
Sarah Myers welcomed the peace demonstration for good reason, she's Jewish. She says Columbia will not and should not stand for the neo-Nazi message.
"I think you can't help but hearing their message and not think about the horrors of WWII. You can't hear their message and not think about the horrors of the KKK has perpetrated on people of color in this country," said Myers. "You know, it's everything that basically America stands opposed to."
To show their distaste for the neo-Nazis, peace advocates transformed the park into a community wide get-together.
Members of different fraternities and sororities hosted a step-show to encourage Columbia residents not to accept hate.
"I felt like if there was a threat to the community and there was an opportunity for positivity, so we basically had to come in and basically represent for the positivity," said Raymond Sanders a member of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity.
As positive as the gathering was, those like Sarah Myers say the community still needs to do more.
"This is a community that has always thrived on diversity, and where so many different cultures have come together. And I just, the idea of having the neo-Nazis in town is very repugnant," said Myers.
Besides the gathering at Douglass Park, some counter-protesters met at the Boone County courthouse, an hour before the march. About 150 people showed up to offer prayers and hopes of peace.
The group wanted to express that Columbia won't tolerate hate speech.
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