About 30 people stood in rain that threatened to turn to snow in Longmont Tuesday evening and read the names of the dead.
The 11 people shot to death in a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, victims of the United States’ latest mass shooting, lay 1,4000 miles away. For those struggling to keep their candles lit under the cloudy sky, the tragedy was more evidence of a spiraling out of control.
Demonstrator Ann Noonan said that last week was a terrible week for the country.
“We had the president declare an attack on our transgender community,” Noonan said. “We had two black people assassinated in a grocery story. … We had the president talking about the caravan of brown people, and then we had an anti-semitic attack.”
Pennsylvania prosecutors allege Robert D. Bowers carried an AR-15-style rifle into Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue on Saturday and shot and killed 11 worshipers. Bowers, 46, wounded six other people, including four police officers.
Federal officials charged Bowers with 29 criminal counts. They included obstructing the free exercise of religious beliefs — a hate crime — and using a firearm to commit murder. He also faces state charges, including 11 counts of criminal homicide, six counts of aggravated assault and 13 counts of ethnic intimidation.
The attack is considered one of the worst against Jews in the United States in the country’s history.
Many of the demonstrators in Longmont were associated with Longmont Leads with Love, a loosely organized group that holds weekly demonstrations at Sixth Avenue and Main Street.
Retired Army Capt. Jack Belchinsky joined the demonstration on Tuesday and said he has been thinking about how the United States “lacks more compassion and love for one another, especially those who might be different.”
“I’m also here for those who perished in Pittsburgh … unnecessarily by someone who was misguided by hate,” Belchinsky said. “It’s sad that someone would go to that length to show his feelings for something he is not happy with.”
The Rev. Sarah Verasco, senior pastor for United Church of Christ Longmont, was among the demonstrators and said Americans are at a place where “our caring and our kindness and our compassion are more important than ever.”
Verasco said the “gift” — and she uses the word carefully — of the tragedy in Pittsburgh is that the hatred and fear coursing through the United States has come to light and can no longer be ignored.
“People have been trying to tell us this for a long time,” she said. “Jews have been trying to tell us ‘We are being persecuted.’ Black people have been trying to tell us ‘We are being persecuted.’
“It’s been easy to deny that. But the veil has been lifted again and again and again. There is no more room for denial. It’s a call to action.”
The message was much the same at a vigil held earlier Tuesday at the University of Colorado, with an emphasis on unity in the face of tragedy. At the CU vigil at which faith and campus leaders at came together with students in prayer and solidarity, as well as to honor the victims and survivors of the shooting, Rabbi Yisroel Wilhelm of CU’s Rohr Chabad Center encouraged strength and positivity in the face of the tragedy.
Wilhelm and Seth Reder, executive director of CU Boulder Hillel, who organized the vigil, said they did so to let students know the community is unified and to encourage them to continue to live their lives.
“I’ve been here for 13 years, and I can say that I’ve never experienced Jewish students so emotional and vulnerable before,” Wilhelm said. “I had hoped that day would never happen, and it did. … Today, for them, I say it was more than anything that they could continue to live their lives.”
Reder said students have been processing their emotions in different ways: Some are concerned they haven’t cried enough. Others are concerned they’ve cried too much.
“Everyone processes in their own way,” he said. “It’s making sure they know they’re supported in whatever way that is.”
The Associated Press and staff writer John Bear contributed to this report.
John Bear: 303-473-1355, [email protected] or twitter.com/johnbearwithme
Source: The Associated Press