Hundreds filled Civic Plaza on Sunday afternoon carrying signs calling for tolerance and love in an attempt to counteract the “hate rhetoric” they say is at play in the 2016 presidential race.
The rally, organized by a coalition of community groups under the name Albuquerque United Front Against Hate, drew to Civic Plaza nearly 500 people, including government and religious leaders and representatives from dozens of student organizations and community groups.
Those gathered listened to speakers and milled about Civic Plaza, basking in the sun on an unseasonably warm February afternoon. Chants rose between speakers.
A chant of “Racism’s not OK in the Burque, hey hey,” transitioned into “when I say ‘no,’ you say, ‘Trump.’ ”
Donald Trump, a GOP presidential candidate, was the primary candidate targeted during the rally.
Community groups in the United Front say they started organizing Sunday’s rally after hearing Trump call for a ban on allowing Muslims to enter the U.S.
“What is different this year is that a leading candidate from a major political party has maintained high poll numbers in spite of spewing hate rhetoric,” Sue Schuurman of the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice said during the event Sunday. “For such a candidate to attract millions of supporters is deeply disturbing, alarming and dangerous.”
Samia Assed, also of the Albuquerque Center for Peace and Justice encouraged the crowd to demand better of politicians.
“We are the majority of Americans,” she said. “We here, this beautiful coalition of people – different races, different religions, different ethnicities – stand to say, we’re not going to tolerate this hate-mongering, fear-mongering rhetoric that’s happening in our country.”
Though speakers touched on a wide range of issues, and the signs attendees carried mentioned even more, for Javier Benavidez, director of the Southwest Organizing Project, the aim of the event was clear.
“To show in a bold way that there are people who are really disappointed in those tactics,” Benavidez said, speaking of the words of hate that political candidates have used to garner support this election season.
Benavidez wore an “I love NM” T-shirt to the rally, and during the march he and another man carried a banner that read “We are the 99%.”
“What we see is them trying to play off the worst in people for political gain, when we know that there are so many people, like the people out here today, who are so much better than that,” Benavidez said during the march. He said one of the event’s goals was to re-engage people who may be “turned off” by politics and said he was pleased to see so many people show up Sunday afternoon.
“There’s something really touching about several hundred people coming together and taking a stand for humanity against racism,” Benavidez said. “I think it’s a beautiful thing.”