Taking Back Wagner Park: A candlelight vigil against hate

MANCHESTER, NH — As dusk settled over Wagner Park Sunday evening at the very place where vandals recently scrawled swastikas on the gazebo, a large gathering of neighbors and friends of the park came together for a candlelight vigil to demonstrate the power of community against hate.

The symbols of hatred have since been washed from the gazebo, but those who came did so in a spirit of solidarity, sending a strong message to those who dared to desecrate their “Pretty Park.” 

People from throughout the city recalled the October 27 massacre of 11 worshippers in a Pittsburgh, PA, synagogue, and pledged that, “This type of hate has no home here in Ward 2, or anywhere else for that matter,” according to organizer and Ward 2 Alderman Will Stewart.

Mayor Joyce Craig was among those who spoke,  along with an ecumenical group of religious leaders including Rev. Dr. Peter D. Boehringer of Gethsemane Lutheran Church, Rabbi Beth Davidson of Temple Adath Yeshurun, Father Chris Martel of St. Catherine of Sienna RC Church, Rev. Patrick McLaughlin of the Unitarian Universalist Church of Manchester, and Rev. Bob Stewart of St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.


The event opened with a reading commemorating Veterans Day:

Today we honor all those Americans who served in the Armed Forces, and whose service protected our lives, our liberties, and our pursuit of happiness. Born of Armistice Day, which marked the end of World War I, Veterans Day offers us an opportunity to acknowledge and thank those of every skin tone, every religious affiliation, every place of birth, as well as every socio-economic background, who together protected the United State of America. As a country, we pause, and together offer them our gratitude.

The recitations included this selection by Rabbi Chaim Stern from Mishkan HaNefesh, CCAR, 2015:

When evil darkens our world, let us be the bearers of light. When fists are clenched in self-righteous rage, let our hands be open for the sake of peace. When injustice slams doors on the ill, the poor, the old, and the stranger, let us pry the doors open.

Where shelter is lacking, let us be builders. Where food and clothing are needed, let us be providers. Where knowledge is denied, let us be champions of learning.

When dissent is stifled, let our voices speak truth to power. When the earth and its creatures are threatened, let us by their guardians. When bias, greed, and bigotry erode our country’s values, let us proclaim liberty throughout the land.

In the places where no one acts like a human being, let us bring courage; let us bring compassion; let us bring humanity.