Rally Against Hate Supports Rock Spring Neighbors

Rally Against Hate Supports Rock Spring Neighbors

Susan Cunningham, Member Arlington County Board

Susan Cunningham, Member Arlington County Board Photo by Shirley Ruhe.

Arlington neighbors gathered March 1 at a Rally Against Hate held on the steps of Rock Spring UCC to show community support for neighbors whose properties had been defaced with racial slurs and swastikas on Feb. 19. The crowd of about 40 included local neighbors and community members, other faith communities, police, as well as representatives of the County School Board and County Board and NAACP and Challenging Racism.

The incident took place at the 5700 block of 27th Street where a white Lexus was spray painted with racial slurs and the driver’s side of the second car had the wheels chained together. Up the street the neighbor had a swastika sprayed in the driveway. 

Rev. Dr. Kathy Dwyer, senior pastor of Rock Spring UCC and a co-sponsor of the event, remembered several years ago when Rock Spring UCC had installed a Black Lives Matter banner which was defaced and had to be replaced three times. 

“But this recent violation happened right outside their home which is supposed to be the safest place.” Dwyer said it speaks to the truth beneath the surface in our community. It shows those of us who are white a wake up call; things happen right in our community that are not in alignment with our values.”

Mike Cantwell, President of the Yorktown Civic Association and a second co-sponsor of the event, said the spray painting on people’s cars and the sidewalk was disgusting. He said Hate Has No Place Here starts here in your heart. Cantwell speculated it was most likely teens in the community as captured on the ring camera. “It could be your teenager. Look people in the eye and ask where were you last night. Teens are trying to figure themselves out, but you need to make clear what is appropriate.”

Susan Cunningham, representing the County Board, said we don’t get it right all the time so when we don’t, we should name it, show up for each other and repair the damage. She pointed out the police are here and working hard to find the culprits.

Bethany Sutton on the School Board enumerated what is happening in the schools, how we are building our commitment. She said school is a place to learn and grow without shame or fear of otherness. She explained the school system is working on mandatory training for all staff on implicit bias and recognizing personal bias as well as a new initiative on hate speech training and proactive strategy on peer to peer conversations. 

Michael Hemminger, President of the Arlington NAACP, remembered we had just celebrated Black History Month but the American Nazi party was founded in Arlington and hatred is still here. He said institutional racism is wrapped into life and we have to rise up together as a community. “let this be a wake up call.”

Rabbi Jeff Saxe from Temple Rodef Shalom pointed out the Jewish community is really hurting and “we don’t want to be an isolated group.” He pointed out as stated in Genesis no matter who we are, each of us is created in the image of God. “No matter who we are, we care about every life. We want to fight for justice for everyone.”

Monique Bryant, Director of Challenging Racism, concluded the morning’s remarks, “We will move ahead one compassionate conversation at a time. Our collective resolve is stronger than ever.”

Dwyer closed with a prayer, “We pray that this small gathering will inspire us; we will stand up for hate wherever we see it.” The group responded “Amen.”