More than 1,000 people attended a rally Sunday afternoon at Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring that was designed to reaffirm Montgomery County’s commitment to support diversity and inclusion and reject bigotry and hate.
“I want to make sure we send this message out,” said County Executive Ike Leggett, one of several local, state and national leaders who spoke at the event. “This is Montgomery County. This is what this world should be like.
“I would like you to make certain you tell your friends, all your neighbors, about what is happening here in Montgomery County and what we can do as a model for the rest of the country,” he said.
County Executive Ike Leggett.
Hundreds—county spokesman Pat Lacefield estimated the crowd at 1,500 to 2,000 people—came to the event billed as “Stand Up for the Montgomery Way” that was organized by county officials “to reaffirm the county’s values of diversity, inclusion, and respect for all.”
The crowd was a mix of old and young, who cheered the speakers. A number carried signs; some expressed opposition to hate, or support for immigrant rights. “I am my brother’s keeper,” read one. Two children held signs that said, “Be Nice.” A group of Buddhists held up a banner that said, “We are all in this together. Compassion & Tolerance.”
The event opened with prayers from Muslim, Buddhist, Jewish and Christian faith leaders and featured comments from a number of speakers including Sen.-elect Chris Van Hollen and state Comptroller Peter Franchot. Some, including Rep.-elect Jamie Raskin, exhorted the crowd to stand up to people who advance hate.
“We’re not going to allow any white supremacist and any white nationalist [to] turn us around,” Raskin said. “We’re not going to let any hate criminal [to] turn us around. If they want to have a list of Muslims in America, my friends, I’m waking up at 5 o’clock in the morning so I can be the first person to sign my name. Let’s stand with the Montgomery way.”
A child named Lily holds a sign.
U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez, a former County Council member, described a “timeless journey” of forming a more perfect union.
“You’ll be part of that timeless journey. Sometimes it zigs and zags, but it bends toward justice. Let’s bend it together,” Perez told the crowd.
The event was scheduled last week after a series of hate-related incidents at county schools and churches, some of which have occurred since the Nov. 8 election of Republican Donald Trump as president.
On Oct. 13, someone used a caustic substance to create a swastika and “images of male genitalia” on the grass of the football field at Quince Orchard High School in Gaithersburg. And in the weekend preceding Halloween, someone painted swastikas and other inappropriate images on school banners, sidewalks and telephone poles at Burning Tree Elementary School in Bethesda.
On Nov. 11, swastikas were found on the boys’ bathroom wall at Westland Middle School in Bethesda. Three days later, a racial slur was written on the wall in the boys’ bathroom at Sligo Creek Elementary School in Silver Spring.
A “Black Lives Matter” sign was vandalized at Christ Congregation Church on the night of Election Day in Silver Spring. And at the Episcopal Church of Our Savior on Powder Mill Road, a sign was vandalized Nov. 13 night with the message, “Trump Nation Whites Only.”
And on Sunday, WTOP reported a swastika was painted on the front door of a Silver Spring supporter of Trump.
Other speakers at the event included Montgomery County Public Schools Superintendent Jack Smith, who echoed others’ comments of inclusion; Montgomery College President DeRionne Pollard, who read a children’s book on peace; Ron Halber, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Greater Washington, who spoke out against the incidents of hate that followed this month’s election; and county police Chief Tom Manger, who said police care only about an protecting residents, not their immigration status.
Pam Lanford of Silver Spring
Manger stressed the county would not tolerate hate.
“A hate crime is a crime against every single one of us,” Manger said. “And for those cowards that in the dark of night think they can send some message, spray paint something on the side of a wall, destroy some property, I would tell them, ‘Look around, this is Montgomery County. And we will not tolerate that kind of action.’ ”
Before the event started, Chuck Goldman of Silver Spring said, “It was good to see the young people here because they’re going to have to live with the electoral eruption.” Goldman said he was happy young people were not bystanders.
Pam Lanford of Silver Spring, who attended the rally, held a sign that read, “Lord help us change the things we cannot accept.”
“I just feel very strongly our community represents what this country can and should be, “ Lanford said.
Buddhists from Kunzang Palyul Choling hold a sign at the “Montgomery Way” rally in Silver Spring on Sunday. Credit: Douglas Tallman