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Reno Residents Hold Vigil, Denounce White Supremacism

Paul Boger
Participants in a vigil in downtown Reno light candles in honor of the victims of the violence caused by white nationalists in Virginia.

Residents living in and around the Truckee Meadows gathered in Downtown Reno Monday night as part of a vigil to honor the victims of last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia.

But as Reno Public Radio’s Paul Boger reports, the remembrance was something akin to a rally against white-nationalists.

Huddled around the 'Believe' sign on the banks of the Truckee River, hundreds gathered to sing, light candles and speak in solidarity against the violence and hate-filled rhetoric that took place over the weekend.

For some, the resurgence of hate groups like neo-Nazis and the KKK comes as a surprise. For others like Patricia Gallimore, President of the Reno/Sparks Branch of the NAACP, this fight is not new.

“I thought that we were done with this. You know, I’ve lived through a little bit of the 50’s, the 6o’s, the 70’s. We’re in the 21st Century. We are supposed to be the enlightened individuals. Why are we still doing this?”

Reverend Larry Holloway leads the congregation at Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Sparks. He attributes this sudden increase in hate speech to President Donald Trump’s inability to effectively condemn violence by white nationalist groups.

“If you look at the incident that occurred this weekend, there’s something wrong in our nation’s capital. The President of these United States, the place that we call home, should have immediately denounced the actions of this particular group," Holloway said.

It’s also not just people of color feeling threatened. Jewish, Muslim and LGBT communities around the country have also been victims of targeted harassment in recent months. Wearing a yellow Star of David pinned to her dress, political activist Molly Rose Lewis says she’s afraid tensions are going to continue to escalate.

“I think it’s absurd and I can’t really process the fact that it’s 2017 and in living memory, people lived through the Holocaust," she said, "and here we are with people spewing the same kind of hatred and anti-Semitism.”

But for some, there’s hope. NAACP’s Reno/Sparks Branch President Patricia Gallimore says residents of Northern Nevada can change the discourse and prevent further generations from feeling the effects of racism.

“We have to have our other brothers and sisters of the other races and colors that are non-black or non-people of color help us in this plight and educate," Gallimore explained. "Talk to your friends. Talk to your other folks and say 'Hey, one of my friends is so-and-so. They’re good people. They’re just like you and me.' I think that’s where it’s going to start.”

Credit Paul Boger
University of Nevada, Reno student Genevieve White (right) and her school mate, Meseret Anbachew (left) participate in an anti-white nationalist rally in Reno.

And yet, the changes are coming too slowly for some. University of Nevada, Reno student Genevieve White says overt racism has become a part of her daily life, and she believes the university is not taking harassment seriously.

“It’s just frustrating because things happened over and over. Things have been written on walls. Students have been attacked by racial slurs and they don’t do anything. I don’t know why they don’t see that as a threat. I don’t know why they’re okay with their students being harmed or hurt or things like that. It’s just frustrating.”

White says the university’s decision to not expel the student who was prominently featured in Saturday’s white nationalist rally sends a signal that racist behavior is an acceptable part of UNR life. It’s a decision University President Marc Johnson says he made because the school does not have any legal reason to dismiss him.

Paul Boger is a former reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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