The country is in a difficult place. A divisive election dominated by the contemptuous language of President-elect Donald Trump left much of the country with raw nerves.
But the outcome was downright frightening to marginalized groups, particularly immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and many women. And in the immediate aftermath of the election, those fears have played out horribly. As of today, there have been 701 "incidents of hateful harassment" since the election, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which is tracking them.
Though it may be tempting to brush off someone burning two Pride flags in a Rochester neighborhood as a minor thing, the act has broad implications.
"A hate crime carries extra weight," said Scott Fearing, executive director of the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, at Rochester City Hall early this afternoon. The act isn't about just one person; it's about sending a message to an entire group, he said.
A crowd gathered at City Hall today for an event headlined by US Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Rochester Mayor Lovely Warren. The pair publicly denounced recent hate incidents across New York and the country, and encouraged community members to stand up for one another. Clips of Warren and Gillibrand can be found at the end of this post.
Warren and Gillibrand were flanked by town supervisors, county legislators, City Council members, and other community leaders. Some faith leaders spoke as well: Rabbi Alan Katz of Temple Sinai, Pastor Roosevelt Dixon of Grace Unity Fellowship Church, and Sareer Fazili, trustee of the Islamic Center of Rochester.
Fazili said Muslims are taught that different tribes were created so that they could all get to know one another. Dixon urged community members to set aside the things that separate people and find ways to come together.
The faith leaders emphasized that solidarity and leadership are essential to overcoming hate. Katz said the opposite of intolerance is not tolerance, but understanding, acceptance, and love.
"Division is good in math, it is not good in society," Katz said. "Diversity is what we want."
The list of accomplishments that Mayor Warren cited was a lengthy one, and she got plenty of applause from the audience of mostly invited guests. Her opponents in the September Democratic Primary, Jim Sheppard and Rachel Barnhart, are seeing something different.