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Thanks to you all for being here. Thanks to Bloomington United for bringing us together in these challenging times.

A few weeks ago I asked the US Conference of Mayors to help connect us in Bloomington with some other mayors who had dealt with white supremacists and bigotry in their communities. I spoke with Mayor Steve Benjamin of Columbia, South Carolina, who peacefully managed major marches and protests as South Carolina finally removed the Confederate Battle Flag from their State Capitol grounds four years ago, after the devastating racial murders in Charleston’s Emanuel AME Church.

I spoke with Mayor Nan Whaley four weeks ago, who described how they had peacefully managed a Ku Klux Klan rally and march last May, with no injuries, despite 75 assault weapons being paraded through town. She helped us think about our own Farmers’ Market, and shared advice and supported our plan to suspend its operation for a couple of weeks. That’s Mayor Whaley of Dayton, Ohio. Four days after talking with my friend Nan, her community suffered the devastating shootings in their downtown – 38 casualties in 32 seconds, including 9 killed.

The US Conference of Mayors is a collection of mayors from around the country, more and more of whom join the club no one wants to join, of cities that have suffered mass shootings, from Charleston to Orlando to Las Vegas to San Bernardino to Parkland to Pittsburgh to Virginia Beach to Santa Fe to El Paso and Dayton and more, all in just the past 5 years.

And of course, beyond those terrible, notorious tragedies, every day, 100 people die from gun violence in our country, mostly from suicides, and mostly without national attention. And of course, gun violence is just one-way example of how lives can be lost or fractured or constrained by actions, or by lack of actions, in our communities. Today we stand with cities around the country to say “NOT IN OUR TOWN.” [Bloomington United was formed 21 years ago to fight hate. After a hate-filled leaflet was distributed. And too soon we had to respond to a hate crime murder in our community, of Won Joon Yoon.] We meet on this courthouse square to reject hate. We reject violence. We reject weapons of war on our streets and in our parks. 

It is so important that we are gathered here together today. As we know, darkness cannot be overcome with darkness. Hate cannot be overcome with hate. It takes light. And love.

Not a dim light. Not a fuzzy, soft, pastel Hallmark kind of love. Strong light. Courageous love. Persistent light. Bold love.

That is what will overcome the anger that can motivate terrible actions or inactions. The resentment. The bigotry. The demons. The apathy.  We need to act now, together, how we and other communities act after tragedies – to recognize how much we share with each other. How much we care about each other. Knowing that, as we struggle to make this a more perfect Union, and a more perfect community, we don’t always agree, each of us, on how best to move forward, but knowing that we can care and share with each other, light and love, and encouragement and support and tolerance, as we work toward that better future.

This is Bloomington. We can do this. We have to do this. We will do this.


 

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