Hundreds rally in Salisbury against hatred and inequality

Hundreds of Salisbury residents assembled against hatred and inequality in a spirited atmosphere of solidarity on Friday morning.

Chris Hagel of Pohanka Salisbury, who planned the We Stand United event, on the parking lot of Pohanka Toyota, stood on a Skyjack motorized lift and, yelling through a megaphone, encouraged the crowd to cheer, “We stand united.”

“One. Two. Three,” he said, and everybody shouted the words that drew them together. Hagel placed his hand on his heart and the audience applauded.

They repeated a boisterous, “We stand united,” this time with their hands in the air.

“If you see somebody you don’t know, say hello. We can all respect each other even if we have differences,” Hagel said, as the crowd mingled, shook hands, snapped photographs and sipped bottles of cold water provided by Pohanka.

From the other side of the parking lot came the booming voice of the Rev. Mark Thompson.

“Let’s put some purpose in this party. We’re praying today. Come on, now,” he said, as heads bowed and voices quieted.

“We pray that this gathering will start the healing process in the community,” he prayed, declaring the binding of jealousy and prejudice and renewal of indivisibility and love.

“All God’s children have a purpose,” the Rev. Thompson said, again leading the mantra, “We stand united. We stand united.”

Salisbury residents must be agitators until the dirt of prejudice, division and hate “are cleaned out of this community,” he said.

The spirit of Friday’s gathering will continue in the community, on social media and at events like Unity Day in the Park on Aug. 2, he said.

Willie Walker, owner of local glass repair company, sang “Man in the Mirror,” as the crowd clapped. Some danced from foot to foot. “I’m gonna make a chance for once in my life,” he crooned as a breeze swept through the parking lot and drone fluttered above.

“When we disagree, we can disagree agreeably and still love each other. Come on, let’s sing. God Bless America,” the Rev. Thompson said, leading the patriotic tune.

Afterward, he introduced Pohanka owner Sandy Fitzgerald, who thanked participants.

“Why not us? Why not here? Why not now?” she said to cheers.

Fitzgerald had dark blue T-shirts printed with United We Stand on the front pocket and across the back.

They were for sale for $20 each, to raise money for Main Street Gym. Owner Hal Chernoff, who, for years, has welcomed youth to the gym, even if they couldn’t afford to buy a membership, thanked her.

In the crowd, Salisbury City Councilwoman Laura Mitchell shook hands with those attending, as did Delegate Carl Anderton.

Mayor Jake Day and Sheriff Mike Lewis hugged a client from Lower Shore Enterprises, who attended with about 40 others from the organization. Lewis playfully took off his hat and positioned it on the smiling woman’s head, then looked skyward and waved at the TV station helicopter hovering overhead.

Police Chief Barbara Duncan stopped to shake hands with a man in a wheelchair.

“People with disabilities are members of our community, as well. They have a lot to say,” said Lauri Andrews, program director of Lower Shore Enterprises.

Andrea Baumann of Delmarva Supports Law Enforcement held pro-law enforcement signs and said she and her husband often post about the good work of police on Facebook.

Earlier, as he was planning the event, Hagel said it was “in response to our nation’s recent tension involving race and equality.”

“I hope what will happen is, conversations will start,” said Hagel, who credited the Pohanka company for the idea.

He wanted it to attract police officers, pastors, leaders in the community and “everybody from every walk of life.”

 

Reach Susan Canfora at scanfora@newszap.com.

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