Vigil held at Eastlake Park where neo-Nazis gathered a week before
A small group gathered for a Sunday night candlelight vigil in Phoenix Park where a neo-Nazi rally was held the previous weekend.
About 30 people attended the vigil at Eastlake Park near 16th and Jefferson streets.
Reverend Jarrett Maupin, organizer of the event, said the aim was to give the community a chance to condemn the “racist attack” on the rally organized by the National Socialist Movement, broadly classified as a neo-Nazi organization, in the same park last week.
“It’s also a chance for the community to come together in a unified way,” he continued, “and to assert, you know, the inherent worth and dignity of each other, and to remember that we are , you know, all created equal. ”
The vigil, he explained, is a demand for protection and peace for the valley’s black community in the face of the threat of organized white supremacy.
“I can’t forget the ‘color-only’ parks,” said Rev. Luther Holland, “where we couldn’t play. We had to cross town to play.
Community surprised to see neo-Nazis historically target Black Eastlake Park
The National Socialist movement was expected at the Arizona Capitol this past weekend, but only a handful showed up there and videos posted on social media instead showed a small group carrying Nazi flags around. Eastlake Park and shouting racial slurs against black people in the park, including the N-word.
Eastlake Park is considered the oldest park in Phoenix and was an important gathering place during decades of segregation when blacks were not welcome in other areas, usually north of Van Buren Street, and were forced into to attend separate schools.
“Most of the time, Eastlake Park is a place for kids and the elderly, so to see them you have to call them (the N-word) and the jigaboos in broad daylight and ask if this person is going to shoot them. or to do it. an act of physical violence is just unthinkable, “Maupin told The Arizona Republic before the event.” The fact that this happened is reason enough for us to come together. It was really, for a lot of people, very disturbing. “
Burt Colucci, who according to the Southern Poverty Law Center is the current National Socialist Movement commander, was arrested days after the rally on suspicion of pointing a gun at a black man in Chandler. Colucci told police Chandler was set to become the “zero point” of the neo-Nazi movement, according to a police report.
Eastlake Park:The Civil Rights History of Phoenix’s Oldest Park; a place of “ peace rather than confrontation ”
Prayer calls for peace and protection
After Maupin led a prayer for the community, the organizers distributed candles to the participants.
Reverend Luther Holland also led a prayer in the park.
“Give us strength, give us courage, give us the courage to keep going in the midst of a group of people who would declare that we are less than human, that we are animals,” said Holland.
Former Phoenix City Council member Michael Nowakowski also spoke at the event.
“There are a lot of people who are frustrated. There are a lot of people who are angry,” said Maupin, “but there are more people who have hope and who are committed, you know, to build a more perfect union. ”
The vigil was also intended to affirm a commitment to peace and a call to action for local politicians to protect the black community.
“We are the survivors of it, and we are not going to let that spirit be rekindled in our community,” Maupin said of white supremacy.
“Someday we’ll all be free,” Holland said closing the event.
Unlike the more than 600 people who responded to the vigil on the event’s Facebook page, 25 to 30 people attended.
Participants Randi Hagen was disappointed with the low turnout.
“It was a beautiful speech, a beautiful sermon,” said Hagen, who stressed that “someone doesn’t have to die for you to show your support.”
Support local journalism.Subscribe to azcentral.com today.