Sunday, January 22, 2017

"Historic" January 21 "Unity of Community" March In St. Augustine

I am so proud of our town and all the people who are activating at this moment in our Nation's history. As LBJ said after Selma, "We SHALL overcome."

I've requested documents on KKK preacher Douglas Russo's police complaint (Request No. 2017-24).

Yes, that Doug Russo.

Yes, this is the guy who allegedly kicked a young man in the scrotum June 11, 2005 at the Gay Pride march.

Yes, this is the hater who on January 20, 2009 counter-picketed the Obama Inauguration celebration in the same park, with he and a bigot buddy bearing signage indicating their delusions, e.g., that President Obama was the devil.

On December 10, 2012, Doug Russo et pals appeared at our St. Augustine City Commission meeting and, quoting Bible verses about who should be put to death, opposed the inclusion of "sexual orientation" as a protected class in the City's Fair Housing ordinance. When the measure passed 5-0, Russo hollered, "reprobates" and "you're fired!" Then-Mayor Joseph Lester Boles, Jr. made me proud when he calmly said, "Would someone please escort that idiot from the room?"

Together, St. Augustine marches strong


A gust of wind unfurled the enormous American flag poking from the throng of people, its bearer momentarily struggling to ease over the Bridge of Lions peak.
Horns blared as vehicles, stuffed with amused or disgruntled onlookers, crawled passed the “Unity of Community” procession.
Someone rolled down a window and yelled an obscenity at the parade.
“We love you,” a demonstrator responded.

St. Augustine resident Laura Peabody, donning a patriotic shirt, leaned against one of the bridge’s famed lion statues and grinned.
“This is the place to be, this is where it’s at,” she said.
A group of women with raised signs and pink T-shirts shuffled by and Peabody offered praise.
“Yes, unity! Unity for everyone,” she shook her fist; the woman waved.
People flooded the streets. Law enforcement called for reinforcement. Tourists gaped. The procession was a stream of colors: swarthy and creamy skin tones, decorative banners mixed with the bold crimson of “love everyone” signs.
Peabody swept the hair from her eyes. She was headed for work soon, but she had to see this first.

“I wanted to be her because we can’t just settle,” she said. “We can’t just say ‘OK,’ this is it.”
Most of the people marching held signs with messages on a variety of topics such as climate, health care, gay and women’s rights and education.
Despite those messages, everyone walked to symbolize togetherness after a contentious election season.
Marilyn Bagdonas, one of the organizers of the unity march, said she didn’t expect such an enormous turnout. As she ducked inside the Kookaburra Coffee Shop to escape the sun, she could hardly contain her excitement.
“We were jumping for joy at the thought of 500 people,” Bagdonas said. “But it’s turned out to be more than that, much more.”
Nearly 20 community leaders spoke to the rally in the Plaza de la Constitucion, preaching messages of tolerance, love and civil leadership. The demonstration was sparked in response to Donald Trump’s inauguration, and yet, no one spoke against the nation’s newest leader.
Instead, they urged onlookers to stand firm in morale and belief.

“I know a historic event when I see one. This is it, and this is us,” said Susan Parker, a local historian.
Parker said nearly 700 women’s and unity demonstrations were happening worldwide, all inspired by the national Women’s March on Washington. St. Augustine, she said, has seen its fair share of mass gatherings and would add this one to its record.
“We are the oldest public space in the United States,” she said. “… In this plaza, people decided how they would get along 400 years ago.”
And they continue to do so today, she added.
“Let us all be ready to say ‘yes, we can,’” Parker urged the crowd. “And let’s also be ready to say, when it’s needed, ‘no, we won’t.’”

For resident Christina Joy, marching across the Bridge of Lions and standing under the hot sun in the plaza wasn’t about anger. It wasn’t about President Trump. It wasn’t even about politics.
“It’s about love. I feel like the most imporant thing we can do right now is love,” Joy said. “Regardless of how I feel about the president, I think it’s important we all just keep in touch with love.”

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