On an island in the middle of the ocean, it is easy to feel removed from the rest of the world until some tragedy or achievement occurs on a national scale and forms a bridge.
The violent rally of white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the Ku Klux Klan in Charlottesville on August 12, during which two police officers and a young counterprotester died, was one such instance. When white nationalists made plans to gather again in cities ranging from Boston to Seattle this weekend, local activist group Indivisible MVY mobilized in peaceful protest. Though no white nationalists were scheduled to gather on Martha’s Vineyard, roughly 100 Islanders turned out in solidarity with the thousands of counterprotesters around the country on Saturday afternoon.
The gathering, named the “Rally for Unity” by Indivisible MVY founder Carla Cooper, was held at the Civil War statue across the street from the Steamship Authority terminal in Oak Bluffs. After a moment of silence for Heather Heyer, the young woman who was killed when a white supremacist plowed a car into the crowd of counterprotesters in Charlottesville, Ms. Cooper began the rally with the following statement:
“Hate groups and white supremacy have no place in this nation, and we will not sit back and allow those groups to dominate the headlines and the national conversation. This is a pivotal time in our nation’s history, and we have a moral obligation to stand up against those who attempt to divide us. We are gathering here for love and unity with our brothers and sisters of color, our many faith communities, our LGBTQ community, our immigrant friends and neighbors, and any and all people that value freedom and our democratic principles in the constitution.”
Ms. Cooper then quoted Woody Allen. “‘Eighty percent of life is showing up.’ And we’re showing up today, and we outnumber [white nationalists] by a lot.”
Parents and children, husbands and wives, toddlers and seasoned protesters filled the small lawn. Some demonstrators carried signs with slogans like “Love Trumps Hate,” “Solidarity with Charlottesville,” and “End War,” written in bold ink.
Following Ms. Cooper’s opening words, Rabbi Caryn Broitman of the Martha’s Vineyard Hebrew Center performed a memorial prayer for Ms. Heyer and the two officers, Jay Cullen and Berke M. M. Bates, and Reverend Bill Clark of the Unitarian Church led the group in a “love and kindness” meditation prayer. Members of the community stood before the ralliers to speak about the importance of voting and community conversation. When the speeches were finished, the group sang iconic songs like “This Land is Your Land,” and “I’ve Got a Hammer.”
Indivisible MVY has been active since President Trump took office in January. The group has organized events like healthcare and tax rallies, and sent a group to the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. last winter.
“Our mission statement is to resist the Trump Agenda,” said Ms. Cooper. “But [today] is not about politics. It is about basic human decency. We just want to encourage people to come out so they don’t feel so alone.”
As the sun sank towards Circuit Ave., a handful of demonstrators continued to mingle and sing. Throughout the evening, news spread that counterprotesters in Boston had numbered in the tens of thousands