GLENS FALLS — Echoing messages of 1960s peace rallies and demonstrations, about 30 area residents gathered at Centennial Circle just after 2 p.m. Saturday to spread messages of peace with songs and signs.
“A lot of us are just sick of the hatred,” said Sharon Dingman of Glens Falls, who said she works at the hospital. “The general message should be peace. We need to stop the fear, negativity and hatred. We need to heal.”
The peace gathering, organized by local performer Camille West Wodicka, was reminiscent of flower power rallies, John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s bed-in and throngs of hippies and Hare Krishnas begging the world to replace hatred with love and peace.
Hoping to spread a message that isn’t about sides or candidates, those gathered at the peace rally said they were there to bring peace and love back to the world.
Wodicka said it wasn’t about presidential candidates or political parties, it was about the fact that children are listening.
“You hear on the news about kids chanting ‘white power’ and bullying others. America knows this is wrong,” she said in between leading songs about peace and looking for lyrics on her cellphone to keep everyone singing. “More of us want a safe, loving and kind place where we haven’t forgotten about tolerance. This might just be a small thing, but at least this is something. Courage is taking action in the face of fear.”
Many of those at the Saturday afternoon rally, who said they could not give their names because of jobs or family, admitted to being afraid that rights will be taken away from certain groups of people just because they look different in the mirror.
“America is already a great place; I don’t want anybody to destroy that,” Sue D’Angelico of Hudson Falls said.
One woman was carrying a sign calling president-elect Donald Trump a “sexist creep.” But she was quickly told by organizers that her message was not what the rally was about. “We just don’t want the hate,” Wodicka told her.
While singing songs like John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” and Woody Guthrie’s “This Land is Your Land,” women and men raised signs to passing motorists who honked in support. In the hour-long demonstration, there were many more honks than jeers. And despite most of those present sharing that they held professional jobs, those in opposition shouted, “Get a job!”
Two men were passing by and stopped to ask two sign holders what was going on.
“It’s about peace,” a man and woman both said.
“Peace is good,” the onlooker replied.
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And Phil Phaneuf, pastor of the Queensbury United Methodist Church, agreed. “I’m here to promote peace regardless of political party,” he said.
Several signs were modeled after the Mothers for Peace Movement of the 1960s that spread the message, “War is not healthy for children or other living things.”
Wodicka said they just changed the word “war” to “hate,” with their signs reading “Hate is not healthy for children and other living things.”
“A number of us were crying about what we are hearing, and the children are the ones getting hurt,” Wodicka said, referring to bullying and bigotry. “Some of us are mothers and we don’t want this for our children or our grandchildren. We are all here for one reason: to bring a little love back. I’m proud of my community. My heart is uplifted to hear the honks and see how many people came out for this.”
Other signs shared messages from poets, activists and peace makers.
“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou
“Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.” — Mother Theresa
A little before 3 p.m., the rally moved from Centennial Circle, with peace demonstrators walking down Glen Street and singing, “If I had a hammer, I’d hammer in the morning, I’d hammer in the evening ... It’s the hammer of justice, it’s the bell of freedom, it’s a song about love between my brothers and my sisters all over this land ...”
The ralliers sang while walking past the Charles R. Wood Theater, stopping momentarily outside SPoT Coffee to garner support for their message from the patrons inside.
As the group rounded back to Crandall Park near the gazebo, a lone Trump supporter stood atop the gazebo holding a “Trump Make America Great Again” sign over his head.
But the peace demonstrators continued.
“If you see somebody being bullied, it’s here, in our counties, in our schools,” said Leigh Anne Dorman of Glens Falls. “If you see it, if you see a woman, a teen being harassed, offer to help ... A tiny voice starts in a small group. Call Stefanik over and over and over. Call every politician. That’s how things change. Get involved. Stay involved.”
After the group disbanded, the Trump supporter said he wanted something new. “Let’s get somebody on the outside and give him a chance, regardless of what he said on the campaign trail,” said Gordon O’Neil of Glens Falls. “Trump is a total outsider and he can bring his business acumen and do things a little differently.”