Open your heart, keep our community safe from hate
This letter was emailed out to ECHO Action supporters today.
I don't know how you're feeling right now, but I'm stunned. Mostly, I'm stunned that I'm not more shocked than I am. I'm trying to now allow all that has happened in the past few days to rent too much space in my head, but I have to admit, it's there.
On Saturday I spoke at the Lebanon/Hanover No Pipeline Rally. My focus was on climate communication, acceptance and praise of all those who step forward to act on climate, regardless of whether they are from our preferred political party, tribe or group of friends. I asked for those assembled to put aside other politics and work together.
On Sunday afternoon I joined many others at a peace rally at Central Square in Keene. When something as horrific as the violence in Charlottesville takes place, we scramble to make sense of it, to understand how we can make it better. Sometimes, the best we can do is be together.
As we stood with signs, there was an overwhelming response of positivity from drivers passing by, tooting their horns. Of course, there were a few other responses as well. One man drove around and around and around the circle. He kept coming back to flip off those standing with signs, shouting obscenities and racist remarks.
Yesterday, I learned about Keene resident Christopher Cantwell, who was a speaker and played a key role in Charlottesville. All of us, in large cities and small towns, live with racism every day. I knew this, but this local man, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center, really hit home.
Just last week, many Cheshire County residents were outraged by confederate flags flying and racist T shirts being sold at the Cheshire Fair. Many called the fairgrounds to complain, some went to confront the vendors and social media was buzzing with concerns.
As I go through my daily routine, shopping, dining, meeting friends and neighbors or perfect strangers, I keep in mind that living in a predominantly white state means that I have to be more intentional in my actions, reaching out to others, being accepting, welcoming and inclusive.
College students are returning to our area. They have read and heard the news. Many are coming from more diverse areas than NH. They know and understand what racism is. Did their view of our community just change? Does it feel less safe? What about permanent residents of color? Surely they are feeling a lot less safe than they did a week ago.
I ask you to join me in being intentional in your actions and words. If you see or hear something that is racist, bullying, aggressive, hurtful, intimidating, shaming, or is an effort to shut others out, speak out or stand with that person in support. Do not walk away and allow them to endure it alone. Make such words and actions unwelcome and unacceptable. Our community is what we make of it.
In unity, peace and solidarity,
Response from Jeff Scott
I had quite an altercation with Christopher Cantwell (Notwell) a few months ago while standing on Central Square, holding a sign that he apparently objected to. He stopped, he screamed. It became ugly enough that an observer called the police, who showed up a few moments later to investigate, while at the same time another citizen stopped to report to the police what he observed.
Cantwell's M.O. is simple. He gets in your face, screams at you (heard some of the same words I read in the article), all in an effort to cause you to react physically, to give him a reason to pull his gun. This is where my N.V.N.V. training was useful and I reacted accordingly, and the situation de-escalated. I JUST stood still. Besides, he is half my age, twice my size, and could have broken me in half. He is well known in Keene and the cops keep an eye on him.
Upon returning on Sunday I heard a rumor that he might have been in Virginia so I made sure I was on the square on Monday, as I will be again tomorrow, and many days to follow. BTW, I would not be surprised if the man driving round and round is the same one that flips me off and tells me to "get an effing job."
We need to be very vigilant (time spent in Vietnam was not entirely wasted) as we remain strong, united.
Share this with others if you think it might be of help.