Last night I attended “St. Augustine Gathers,” a multicultural community response to the recent violence plaguing America. This event was comprised of song, reflection, and prayer at Grace United Church (I missed that part as I had to work), followed by a Peace Walk to the town plaza, where a candlelight vigil was planned.
I met up with the Peace Walk as it turned off Hypolita Street and on to St. George Street, the busy, touristy shopping lane which is closed off to cars. There were perhaps 100 marchers, give or take a few–and my mother, my friend, and I joined them for the rest of the walk to the plaza. It was a truly multicultural crowd, with people of all races, all ages, and all backgrounds. They were signing Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance,” and holding signs which read, “Social Justice Builds Peace,” “Spread Love, Not Hate,” “Compassion in Action,” “Work to Understand,” and “Black Lives Do Matter.” I expected this; what I did not expect was the response from the tourists up and down the street, as they flashed peace signs, clapped, joined in the singing, and joined in the walk. I had a lump in my throat the entire time.
St. Augustine police handled the event well, and blocked a road for us all to pass into the plaza, and they watched silently from the sidelines, as people gathered to light their candles, and began singing “We Shall Overcome.” We stood, mere steps from the St. Augustine Foot Soldiers Monument, a bronze sculpture (unveiled in 2011), which commemorates those who worked to advance civil rights in the 1960s; we stood on the very same ground as those protesters of the past. It was lovely. It was peaceful. And it was important.
I wish to thank all the community members who took time out of their lives to come down for the event. I am hopeful that gatherings such as these can and will take place all over the country, with everyone working together to call for some sorely-needed change. Thank you, City of St. Augustine, for the sensitive police presence, and the chance to express our concern.
Image Source: Lauren Tivey