The Rally to Condemn Hate Speech took place last night, and the turnout was loud and large. The median on Grand River Avenue off of Abbot Road was filled to the brim with protestors uniting to condemn the statements made by those who refuse to accept refugees into the United States.
Cars honked and passengers cheered as they passed the median packed with signs saying things like “Stop Bigotry,” “Say No to Islamophobia,” and “Condemn Hate Speech.” Nell Kuhnmuench (President of the East Lansing School Board) stated during the rally that she believes this discussion is critical, and that we are “losing our sense of who we are as a country.”
At the height of the event, several speakers addressed the crowd. Rabbi Michael Zimmerman of Congregation Kehillat Israel in Lansing said, “Let the nation know our Muslim brothers and sisters are exemplary citizens, delightful neighbors, and faithful friends. When they are attacked, you and I bleed.”
Imam Sohail Chaundry, Resident Imam of the Islamic Center of East Lansing stated “I’m feeling alive… I am so proud of each and every one of you and you are doing what we were supposed to do when God Almighty created us as human beings.”
Other speakers included Reverend Campbell Lovett of the United Church of Christ, and Nell Kuhnmuench who recited an extensive statement from the East Lansing School Board. One segment of the statement declared that “The East Lansing Board of Education recognizes our responsibility to continue to teach our students to treat one another with respect, including respect for our differences. It is the responsibility of the adults in our district to model the best behavior and the most welcoming attitude to all of our students. We wish to affirm for our students that just as the South Carolina killer did not represent Christianity, those who engaged in the heinous, deadly acts in California do not represent Islam.”
Many students from both East Lansing High School and Michigan State University took part in the event. One participant was Malak Aldasouqi, who is a Muslim student in her senior year at the high school. She felt that this rally was significant because it will enhance the community’s enthusiasm on the issue and encourage elected officials to accept refugees and promote peace in Muslim relations. She cited Governor Rick Snyder’s hesitancy to welcome these refugees into Michigan.
Donna Rich Kaplowitz, one of many who decided to take a stand and contribute to organizing this event, was “overjoyed” with the turnout, and expressed her deep appreciation for the fact that “every faith was represented. All ages and all languages came together to discourage hateful speech coming from Presidential candidates and others.”
At the end of the speeches, the audience joined in a song lead by Karen Hoene, another member of the School Board. In unison, the large crowd repeated the lyric: “standing on the side, on the side, on the side of justice.”