We stand together.
That was the message in downtown Fort Wayne on Sunday afternoon as 150 to 200 people lined Clinton Street outside the Allen County Courthouse to protest violence and vandalism, much of it racially motivated, that has occurred in some parts of the country since President-elect Donald Trump won Tuesday’s election. Waving flags and hoisting signs, residents of all ages, from all walks of life and ethnic backgrounds, exchanged hugs and greetings as they stood in the brisk autumn air. The crowd cheered each time a passing vehicle honked its horn in support.
There was much honking during what was called the "Fight Hate With Love" rally.
"We can’t stay in a state of hate and blame," Rhonda Woody of Fort Wayne said. "It’s time to move on, move toward love. The values we have, we need to stand for them, not be complacent and complain, but to move forward and to do what’s right."
Regardless of who leads the country, Woody said, it’s "our obligation to do what’s right, to fight for what’s right, stand for what’s right."
Woody said she first saw the rally as an event on Facebook. It was also mentioned at Woody’s church Sunday.
In the wake of Trump’s election, instances of racially charged attacks and vandalism have been reported in cities and towns across the country. The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate crimes and groups, estimates there have been more than 200 instances of harassment or intimidation since Election Day.
Records from the Allen County Election Board show that Trump won Allen County with more than 56 percent of the ballots cast.
Fort Wayne resident Amanda Cherry said she, her husband, Harry, and her 4-year-old son, David, came to the rally because they felt it was important to show that there are many different people in the world and to show that those people are supported.
"Of course we were shocked by the Trump thing, but that happens," Cherry said. "Minority communities are feeling insecure right now because it feels like it was a vote against them, and that was never the intention."
Cherry said it was nice to see a lot of different people at Sunday’s rally, as well as a wide variety of signs supporting different issues. Cherry also said she was happy to see that a peaceful protest had taken place.
"Basically, it just seems like a lot of people are coming together to show their dissent and their solidarity as a community," Cherry said.
Woody said while she doesn’t agree with some protesters’ signs, the overall message was extremely positive. Some of the signs featured slogans such as, "Empathy is strength," "Hate is not my America," "Don’t waste your hate, gather and create," and "Refugees are welcome here." However, there were a small number of signs displaying messages assailing Trump, such as "Not my president," "He made America hate again," and "Donald Trump is fascist scum."
Tre Sowers of Fort Wayne said he decided to attend the rally so he could show solidarity with everyone who might be feeling alone right now.
"I think especially with Mike Pence being the vice president now, events like this help people in Fort Wayne and Indiana see that it’s not just Republicans, it’s not just hate groups that live in Indiana," Sowers said. "I think it also shows … there are a lot of people that agree with you but might have voted for Trump. They’re still fighting for rights but may have different feelings on economics or business."
As the afternoon sun began to wane, cars continued to blare their support as they traveled south on Clinton Street. As the thinning crowd cheered along the street, high above in one of the windows of the Anthony Wayne building facing the courthouse, a large sign had a simple message – "Love."