Hundreds of people gathered Wednesday night at John Dam Plaza in Richland, with candles, songs, poems, prayers and messages of inclusion and unity.
The Love Not Hate vigil aimed to bring the community together — and to show support to those feeling scared or uncertain — after the divisive presidential election.
While organizers and many in attendance Wednesday were disappointed that Donald Trump won, the event wasn’t partisan.
“It’s been a really contentious election. I think everybody feels like it’s us or them. But we’re all people. People are people,” said Amy Boaro, one of the organizers.
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“We really need to embrace empathy instead of fear and anger, and to reach out to each other,” she said. “Let each other know it’s going to be OK.”
The vigil drew people of all ages, from young children to men and women with gray hair.
They chatted, embraced. They wrote messages of encouragement and hope on a large roll of paper, dubbed “love letters to the community.”
“Love each other, because we all need a little support,” one message said.
“I love you. I will never stop fighting for you. I will never stop protecting you. You make the world beautiful,” said another.
Volunteers passed out candles, and performers and speakers took the stage.
A man recited a Sanskrit prayer. Another sang tunes such as Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.
Ellicia Elliott, a founder of The Rude Mechanicals theater company, read part of composer Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Tony acceptance speech sonnet, given after the Orlando nightclub shooting.
“We live through times when hate and fear seem stronger / We rise and fall and light from dying embers / Remembrances that hope and love last longer,” it goes. “And love is love is love is love is love is love is love is love, cannot be killed or swept aside.”
Isaac Butts, founder of Wake Up Nation, said, “each individual person, no matter who you are — your race, your religion, your sexual preference — you are built for greatness. You were built to bring this country something amazing.”
And the community can do great things by coming together, Butts said. He had people in the crowd lift their candles and declare, “Tri-Cities unite.”
Several of those at the vigil Wednesday said they came because they wanted to do something, to be together.
Ashley Brooks of Kennewick said she “wanted to see the community light up.”
She didn’t support Trump and was disappointed in the election results.
But the country has to move forward, she said.
“We can love one another, and try to make America great by loving each other and showing that we love each other,” Brooks said.