BATAVIA, N.Y. — In Batavia, it was the first day of an event that has generated controversy with a mix of politics, religion, and some claims by state officials that it spawns racist, hateful rhetoric. 2 On Your Side was there to hear from both sides over the ReAwaken America tour event.
Friday was the start of a two day event in the town of Batavia at the Cornerstone Church. It's well underway with many taking part in the activities here. We spoke to a couple of people attending the event who stress that this is a message of peace even though they do have strong conservative viewpoints.
Over 3,000 people from around the country came to hear numerous speakers highlighted by former President Donald Trump's son Eric and former national security adviser General Michael Flynn and various pastors. They heard comments against COVID vaccinations but it was mostly about support of Donald Trump.
"To show support to General Flynn and the Trump brothers - especially what's happened at Mar-a-Lago. I think it's important for patriots to stand up and say, 'hey, this is also something that we're not okay with.' And it's okay to peacefully and nonviolently stand up and communicate that," said John Dobbins who traveled from Colorado to be at the event.
Cathy Woodward is a truck driver from Idaho who says he has taken part in various protest convoys across the country. She has strong opinions, but says they are peaceful in their intentions.
"We are God loving - love our country - like Trump or not Democrats and Republicans - I mean he is for God and country. And I mean this is crazy - we are not white supremacists," Woodward said.
But this gathering, which drew criticism and warnings from the state attorney general for hateful rhetoric and white nationalistic views, prompted Democratic socialists and others to come forward in line with clergy members with counter concerns and statements.
Reverend Jennifer Butler of the Faith in Public Life Ministry of Washington, D.C. told reporters at protest set up by clergy that, "They're living in fear and causing others to have fear and weaponizing faith. There is supposed to be this beautiful vision of living together in abundance and harmony."
Reverend Dr. Roula Alkhouri of the Presbyterian Church of USA added, "The majority of Christians speak with love. And people of other faiths see this as a threat as well to their liberty and so we stand in solidarity with them."
Meanwhile police kept watch and in touch with the event's organizers and security team. Chief Deputy Brian Frieday of the Genesee County Sheriff's Office says they had to be prepared for any problems. So he checked with police agencies from other locations where these tour events occurred.
"From my sources there were no incidents at these events," Frieday said. That gave him some piece of mind.
This event continues Saturday. On incidents have occurred so far.