BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After deadly violence shook the city of Charlottesville, Va. over the weekend, Western New Yorkers came together in solidarity Wednesday for a prayer vigil, and to stand up against the hatred. The event was held at a church on East Eagle Street.
"What happened in Charlotesville, Virginia, must not and will not be tolerated in our City of Good Neighbors, Buffalo, New York," said Pastor Charles H. Walker II, one of several speakers.
Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, County Executive Mark Poloncarz, Senator Tim Kennedy, and Mayor Byron Brown were among the elected speakers at the event, but it was the words of those who represent targeted groups that were perhaps more profound.
"Let love conquer hate," said Rabbi Alex Lazarus-Klein.
One of the attendees, Anthony Jenkins, is an Islamic man with a family. He said he tries to teach his kids to stand up for their beliefs.
"I ask them to always remember to be true to who they are because it's very difficult to be a Muslim in this country right now," Jenkins said.
Quite oppositely, Eileen McCallister is a Southern Universalist who moved to Buffalo in the '70s. She doesn't feel targeted herself, but it upsets her that others are, and that's why she decided to attend the vigil.
"I had a landlord who told me if I had any black people coming to my house other than to work there, he was coming with a gun. Yeah, I've seen real racist things, but I don't like them, and I think Buffalo is much more open," she said.
Bonnie Kearny came with her granddaughter because she thinks it's important that the 7-year-old understands what's happening in the world.
"I don't want to go backwards in time, I've lived through that, OK?" Kearny said. "I want her to have peace when she grows up."
Kearny's way of teaching her granddaughter seems to be working.
"People are being good to each other, but some people from far away are trying to hurt us, and we want love and peace, we do not want hate," said young Leilani Thomas.
When asked what advice she would have for adults, the 7-year-old Thomas said this about how she handles disagreements with her own friends:
"We all want to be friends. We have mistakes sometimes, but we make up for it and then we get back together and then we become friends again," she said.
The vigil's speakers encouraged people in the packed church to be good examples and to not tolerate hate, racism, or bigotry.