Citizens at the Black Lives Matter Vigil for Action in Warrenton on Saturday, March 6
In response to a citizen's complaints and requests to "shut down" the weekly Black Lives Matter Vigil for Action, many others came to show their support of the vigils at the Evening Session of the Town Council on Tuesday, March 8.
The video of Citizens' Time may be viewed at Town of Warrenton, Town Council Archives, Evening Session 3/8/2022 .
EXCERPTS FROM CITIZENS' AND COUNCIL'S COMMENTS:
At time stamp 46:50, Fauquier NAACP president, Ellsworth Weaver speaks of the peaceful mission of the six sponsors of the vigils. The intent is not violence, but "to continue to push on for equality,"Dr. Weaver said. He reminded those in attendance that "when we stood at the start of the meeting and said the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag, we pledged to 'liberty and justice for all'. Not some people. All."
At 50:50 Vinicent Holland, associate pastor at First Baptist Church of Warrenton, said that Black Lives Matter "is a phrase to draw attention to which group is in trouble right now. And we want people to understand that. We are not violent. We're peaceful. We love. We invite anybody, if you can say all lives matter, then you should be on the same side of the street, because if you really believe that, then a Black life should matter too...Black lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter. But if you say that, then you must be able to say Black lives matter or you're a hypocrite. God bless you."
At 53:05 Barbara Amster, a member of the League of Women Voters of the Prince William-Fauquier Area, said, "It is not a protest. It is not a demonstration. It's a vigil. We stand, and we remember, and we testify, and we remind people as they go by that this is a current and important issue. We just stand there and hold our signs and hope that it will hearten people...People are coming to see us. They're coming and bringing their children and pointing to start discussions. And we are a positive good."
Ms. Amster praised the Warrenton Police Department for the way they have handled tensions associated with the Vigils. "We support them a hundred percent," she said. "We tried very hard to do something for them, but they won't even accept cookies--I know, I baked them. They won't accept donations, they won't accept lunch. They are incorruptible," Amster added, prompting laughter from the audience.
Ms. Amster shared with the Council that, to show their appreciation in a way that was acceptable to Chief Kochis and the Warrenton PD, Vigil attendees raised more than $1,600 which they donated to the Department's favorite charity, the Special Olympics. "We could not admire them more," Amster said. "And we thank them. And we thank you, because we know this is something of an imposition. But as you see in Ukraine, sometimes you just have to stand up. And sometimes you just have to say, this is important. Let us think about it. Let us talk about it. Let us remember it. And so the Vigil."
At 57:11 Joe Washington, Fauquier NAACP member, asked everyone who attended the Vigils to stand. A hefty portion of the audience stood. "These are the folks at the Vigil, just a portion," Mr. Washington said. "So just take a look at who's out there, who's lifting their voices in a peaceful way. I just want to bring that to your attention."
After hearing citizens' comments, Council members made their comments.
At 59:43 Councilman Renard Carlos said, "For the Vigil, I hear you. I hear both sides. And I hear you, I hear your emails, I hear your comments, I hear your phone calls...What a privilege that we have to express ourselves peacefully...I think there's always an opportunity to reimagine how we dialogue with each other, maybe change some things up, maybe listen a bit more, maybe find some common ground. But under no circumstance, while I hold office, will I entertain the idea of silencing individuals that we have difference of agreements with...The Town of Warrenton, as long as I have the opportunity, will not silence individuals and take away their constitutional, protected rights simply because we disagree with them."
1:02:16 - Councilman Kevin Carter: "And just following what Renard said, what a privilege as well that we have the opportunity to have dialogue in this county without the threat of retaliation or being jailed like we see around the world in many places...I'm thankful for each of you for coming out tonight and expressing what's on your mind."
1:05:51 - Councilman James Hartman: "As far as everyone who's here for the Vigil, thank you very much...It was such a pleasure to hear you guys talk, talk about the Vigil. And I'm not going to pat myself on the back or anybody on the dais. I want to thank town government for the way they've handled the situation, and particularly the police department. I'm glad you pointed that out because it could have been much different, and we'll continue to work together with you."
1:09:38 - After sharing how much it means to him to represent Ward 2, which has three of Fauquier County's historically Black communities (Madison Town, Oliver City and Haiti Street), as well as what it has meant to him to get to know Taryn and Ellsworth Weaver and other members of Fauquier NAACP, Councilman William Semple said, "And I can't tell you how honored I am to represent this community on this dais and how pleased I am that all of you have turned out tonight to present your views. And I couldn't possibly be as eloquent as Renard Carlos, but thank you for coming. And you've made a great night for a great town."
1:11:54 - Councilwoman Heather Sutphin: "And no matter what color you are, or what belief you are, or who you love, or who you worship, you matter...I think it's wonderful to come in here and see all these people who want to get involved and want to be peaceful...We must respect each other, and respect that we come from different places and walks of life. If we lose respect, then we lose it all...We can't give up the fight, and we can't give up the passion that we have for ourselves."
1:17:40 - Councilman Sean Polster: "It was about two years ago that George Floyd was murdered, which Mr. Weaver called a modern-day lynching. And I reached out to Dr. Champion and said, 'Let's do something, hate has no home here.' I felt great, and we had a great day, 800 people. And Dr. Weaver came up to me and said, 'Sean, hate has no home anywhere.' I'm like, ugh. Dr. Weaver, you were correct. So I choose love over hate. And so all I want to say, sir, is I love each and every one of you and there's nothing you can do about it."
1:18:28 - Mayor Carter Nevill: "The only way we can preserve our democracy is by a fervent and passionate defense of our freedom of speech. And that means that we hear what we disagree with. But that also gives us a chance to respond and retort...Any time that speech is stifled, that is an act of oppression, that is an act of authoritarianism, and it deprives us of the very foundation that gives our democracy the strength that it needs to survive and flourish...And as everyone has pointed out, we have today these sunflowers in solidarity to our brothers and sisters in small towns across Ukraine who are under threat from authoritarian assault, and we stand in solidarity with them in defense of their freedom and hope and pray for them every single day and wish for a speedy and peaceful outcome to that conflict and that democracy...To be able to stand in a room and express our differences of opinion is a blessing. And it is only able to survive and succeed when we are able to listen and truly hear and, as Dr. Weaver has said, and I think Pastor Holland as well, to love, and when we begin everything that we do with love...."
BLACK LIVES MATTER VIGIL FOR ACTION SPONSORS:
Afro-American Historical Association of Fauquier County
Coming to the Table - Northern Shenandoah Valley
League of Women Voters of the Prince William-Fauquier Area
NAACP Fauquier County Branch 7059
Virginia Interfaith Center - Northern Piedmont Chapter