Community Comes Together to Decry Hate

November 16, 2016

By Chuck Carlson

Approximately 200 people attended the downtown Albion unity rally at the corner of South Superior and West Ash streets.

One by one, they came up to the blue and red sign with the words “Albion Chooses Love” and signed it.

From longtime community members to college students to children, the signatures were a thunderous message and a definitive answer to an incident that stunned and galvanized the Albion community.

“These symbols speak loud,” Rev. Donald Phillips of the Albion Ministerial Association and chaplain of Albion College told the gathered crowd Tuesday evening. “But we’re coming together as a community to speak louder.”

The impromptu gathering was arranged quickly as a sign of unity and love for Albion and as a message to vandals who, the night before, spray-painted swastikas and the letters KKK on five buildings on Superior Street.

The vandalism was found on a longtime business, a bank, a church, an empty storefront and Albion Malleable, a brew pub at 420 S. Superior that’s set to open next year.

It was in front of the restaurant, at the corner of South Superior and West Ash Street, where the “Unity and Prayer Gathering” was held late Tuesday afternoon. And it drew a cross-section of the Albion community, from city council members to the school superintendent to Albion citizens to Albion College students, including the men’s lacrosse team, which showed up as a group to show its support.

Chemistry professor Cliff Harris holds a sign in support of the Albion community during the November 15 unity rally downtown.

All those who attended were also encouraged to create signs, and the crowd of around 200 people spilled out onto Ash Street in a dramatic show of support.

“We have our challenges,” Albion City Manager Sheryl Mitchell told the crowd. “But look around. We are strong, united and we are not going to stand for this.”

Mitchell emphasized that Mayor Joe Domingo told city work crews to drop whatever they were doing and remove the symbols from the buildings. Yet while the images were gone, the memories remained.

But it was Phillips and several other speakers who said that the images would not define Albion.

“We are one, we have always been one and we will always be one,” said Sally Walker, the College’s vice president for student affairs. “We stand together and stand with our city.”

Provost Marc Roy read a statement from College President Mauri Ditzler, who was traveling out of state, in support of the community.

“The ugly symbols we found today and the messages they convey serve to remind us that this is a time to express our support and love to all members of the campus and local community who are feeling particularly vulnerable in this time of uncertainty,” Roy said.

The 45-minute event concluded with prayers and hugs and singing and a pointed statement from Phillips, who lauded all those who were posting the proceedings on social media.

“Let them know Albion had a response and it wasn’t done at night,” he said. “It was done in the light where everyone can see it.”

See the story on Tuesday’s rally on WILX-TV in Lansing