Close to 300 people turned out on Saturday afternoon at Dennis Alley Park, (also known as Waban Park) in Oak Bluffs for the “We Stand Together” rally, which began as a thread on Facebook. Starting from Tuckernuck Avenue at 3:30 pm, the group marched clockwise around the northern half of the park, holding up signs with messages such as “No Home 4 Hate” and “American Already Is Great” and were joined by two large papier-mâché puppets. The marchers moved mostly in silence, although one person carried a boombox playing Cat Stevens’s “Peace Train.”
At the far southern end of the park a small group of Trump supporters held up a large banner, but never approached the demonstration. As darkness fell they, turned a large spotlight and aimed it at the larger event to the north. Several people commented that this felt vaguely aggressive, but it did illuminate the proceedings.
Organizer Arielle Hayes thanked everyone for coming and said that the entire event had been put together in less than a week by a few people via Facebook and a meeting at the West Tisbury library. She described it as the beginning of a “non political pro-unity against hate” movement she hoped it would launch and said that its purpose was to “protect vulnerable people both on- and off-Island.”
The “We Stand Together” movement’s mission is to “educate ourselves and others and deal with our changing culture,” Ms. Hayes said. “We’ve relied on the government to do this for us, and we’ve been too comfortable and too complacent for too long. We will take power into our own hands. It’s time for courage and vigilance. Don’t give power to the power they have over us. It is time to rise up and resist; it’s time we are together.”
Ms. Hayes was followed by several speakers. Lynn Ditchfield told the crowd to “prepare for provocateurs. They will try to divide us.”
Elaine Weintraub, a history teacher at Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School, described how puzzled her students had been to see a presidential candidate making fun of a disabled person. “We learned not to do that in second grade,” her students told her. Weintraub said that she felt as if she were living in the Weimar Republic, the democratic government that fell to the Nazis in 1933. She ended by telling people how important the “Dream Act” (which offers a path to citizenship to children of illegal immigrants) was to some of her students and how that promise may now be taken away.
Rebecca McCarthy, an immigration attorney on the Island, pledged to make available as much information as possible so that immigrant families would be supported “as best we can.”
Bruce Nevin, a member of the Martha’s Vineyard Peace Council and the local Friends Meeting recalled seeing the Pueblo people in Acoma, New Mexico dancing two steps forward and one step back years ago. “They were doing that to keep the world in balance,” he said. “That is what we need to do. There is a need for us to practice patience with each other.” He recommended that everyone present befriend a conservative in their lives, perhaps two.
Rose Styron was the final speaker. She reminded the assembly of the civil rights struggles of the past by recounting her own participation in them.
“It never occurred to me [while I was protesting the Vietnam War],” she said, “that in the next century I’d be in Oak Bluffs trying to save our democracy from our president-elect.”
Ms. Styron is from Baltimore and felt moved to quote the “sage of Baltimore,” H.L. Mencken, who wrote in 1920:
“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
The rally concluded with several songs, including “I’ve Got Peace Like a River,” “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around,” and “Amazing Grace.”
Ms. Hayes, the event organizer, said that the town of Oak Bluffs had refused to allow the event to take place in Ocean Park, but did not forbid it from taking place at the former Waban Park, now known as Dennis Alley Park. Two Oak Bluffs police officers were present.
She said that if anyone wanted to get further involved in the movement, they could look for “We Stand Together MV” on Facebook and attend weekly meetings on Sundays at 1 pm at the West Tisbury Library.