BY: EVAN BRANDT
PHOENIXVILLE >> Between 300 and 400 people — some from as far away as Baltimore — gathered in Reeves Park Friday night to take a stand against hate.
Organized by self-described liberal Chris Brickhouse and Republican Borough Councilman Michael Kuznar, about 15 speakers trooped to the microphone to call for equality for African-Americans, whites, the LGBTQ community, Catholics, Jews and any other American.
Sophie Kandler, who described herself as trans, said in Pennsylvania she could be fired for no reason simply because of her sexual orientation, but not in Phoenixville, which has adopted an anti-discrimination ordinance.
Will Fuller, from the church-based POWER organization told the crowd that “we know racism hurts both the oppressed and the oppressor because you cannot be healthy and subjugate another human being.”
He added that “there are more of us then there are of them here,” he said referring to racists. “There are more of us in this country.”
The rally was organized as a result of the outcry over the racially-charged events in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 12 and 13, sparked by that community’s decision to remove a statue to Confederate general Robert E. Lee from a city park.
Marchers carrying Nazi flags, the Confederate battle flag and identifying with the Ku Klux Klan gathered for a “Unite the Right” rally there, and anti-protestors geared up to meet them.
One woman, 32-year-old Heather Heyer, was killed Saturday and 19 injured when a car plowed into a group of counter-protesters.
The driver charged with driving the car, James Alex Fields Jr., who was from Ohio, has been charged with second-degree murder and other offenses.
In the wake of the violence, President Donald Trump has enlarged the controversy by saying “many sides” are to blame for violence.
“Nazis, my God we’re talking about Nazis and we really have to stand up here and say that’s wrong?” asked Abby Parker, who drove up from Philadelphia for the rally.
A public school teacher from Baltimore, which quietly removed all its Confederate statues overnight Tuesday after a city council vote, said she also drove to Phoenixville to speak out.
“We need more peace rallies than hate rallies. We need more rallies like this, not because something bad happened, but because we love each other,” the teacher said.
“I’m really pleased with the turn-out because I feel like this is a good step toward moving this community closer to equality,” said Brickhouse.
“I didn’t expect this many people to come,” added Kuznar. “There are a lot who are not from Phoenixville, which I think is great.”
One group not from Phoenixville was the Pottstown chapter of the NAACP, which came to show their support one day after holding a similar rally in Smith Family Plaza in Pottstown.
Pottstown School Board member Emanuel Wilkerson stirred the crowd when he said one of the nation’s founding documents holds the answer with three simple words — “We the people.”
“It is we the people who will solve these problems. Say it with me,” Wilkerson said.
Phoenixville resident Wendy Kelly brought it back home when she said that “the change that America needs can start right here in Phoenixville.”