Following an emotional vigil Monday in support of the Buffalo, N.Y. community where 10 African Americans were fatally shot while grocery shopping, the entire audience gathered at the front of Mt. Calvary Baptist Church and declared, “Buffalo, New York. Montgomery County, Maryland stands with you.”
That strong message will be sent to the Buffalo mayor, who represents the area where a young white domestic terrorist went on a hate-fed shooting rampage May 14.
Community leaders of all faiths, county legislators and department heads and members of the police spoke out against hatred and racism and for tolerance and love during a 90-minute vigil at the church in Rockville.
“We gather because we care. We gather because we are a loving community,” said James Stowe, director of Montgomery County’s Office of Human Rights.
County Executive Marc Elrich feared that “racism seems normalized. If we don’t say one is right and one is wrong, and say that very clearly, this is going to continue.” Montgomery County “has a no tolerance policy,” he said, adding, “We don’t want anyone to feel unsafe doing normal things.”
He called the shooting in Buffalo “beyond the pale” and “the very definition of terrorism.” He labeled replacement theory “pure garbage.”
Council President Gabe Albornoz agreed, noting, “Nobody is replacing anyone. We are part of the same team.” He expressed sadness that this fatal incident “has become an all too common pattern,” and said it won’t end until fear, hatred and ignorance is not spread and government puts an end to “the ability to purchase a firearm that has no reasonable business to be in any community at any time.”
Rev. James Boney, president of the Black Ministers Conference, pointed out that the shooter “could have ended up in any community where hatred has been sown against another community.” The seeds of hatred take root and will harvest, he said.
“We need to start talking to our children about race truth, not race theory,” he said. “Our children need the truth.”
Added Assistant Montgomery County Police Chief Carmen Facciolo, “We need to bolster gun laws.” He added, “We need to recognize that thoughts and prayers are not enough.” It is important to let everyone know, “Hate is not accepted here.”
Rev. Tim Warren, pastor at Emory Grove United Methodist Church in Gaithersburg, noted that every time a community starts to heal from a shooting “someone just rips the scabs off.”
He questioned aloud, “Where was the sense in it? Why was it necessary?” To those who wonder could it happen in Montgomery County, Warren replied, “Unfortunately the answer is yes. It could happen here.”
“Unfortunately it’s going to happen again,” agreed Iman Shaykh Hadji. He urged the audience “to do everything in our power to make it stop.”
“We are so much stronger united than divided.
Today we affirm we choose respect, we choose love.”- @albornoz_gabe at today’s vigil.
Montgomery County stands with Buffalo, NY following the racist mass shooting there. pic.twitter.com/rbslqmfg3b
— Montgomery County State's Attorney's Office (@MCSAONEWS) May 23, 2022
People of all faiths gathered at Mt. Calvary Baptist Church sent a taped message to City of Buffalo.. "Buffalo, New York, Montgomery County, Maryland stands with you." @mymcmedia pic.twitter.com/5nTohgSyYQ
— suzanne pollak (@SuzannePollak) May 23, 2022
My heart weeps for the families & the Buffalo community as they mourn and try to heal. As this racist attack fades from the headlines, members of the Black community continue to grieve and fear for their safety. Healing requires Truth & Repair. #RacismIsAPublicHealthEmegency
— Will Jawando (@willjawando) May 23, 2022