People in the streets say what it means to march

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On Saturday more than 1,400 people participated in the Four Freedoms Coalition Rally Against Bigotry and Prejudice in Pittsfield. It began with a gathering at St. Joseph's Church on North Street. Then the crowd marched through downtown to First Church of Christ on Park Square where there was a series of speeches by local community organizers, elected officials and James Roosevelt, the grandson of Franklin D. Roosevelt. The coalition, formed in response to the rise of racism during the presidential campaign and since the election, takes its name from the Four Freedoms outlined in FDR's speech to Congress on Jan. 6, 1941 and then immortalized in paintings by Norman Rockwell: the freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom from want and freedom from fear.
Here are some reflections from the participants in Saturday's march and rally.


"I haven't seen anything like this in a while. Aside from parades, the last big events were Silvio O. Conte's funeral, then when Hillary Clinton came to The Colonial Theatre. I think this is the third biggest mass gathering this city's had, and possibly the largest demonstration. This is pretty significant, in my opinion."

— Jonathan Lothrop, former Pittsfield City Councilor and resident on the

estimated crowd of 1,400 people

"Are you willing in 2017 to fight for those Four Freedoms?"

— U.S. Senator Ed Markey, D-MA, in addressing the standing room-only rally crowd at the First Church of Christ Congregational on Park Square.

"I'm here for my two aunts who are lesbians. They're really nice and caring, but they're persecuted for being who they are in Virginia. ... Instead of fighting fire with fire, we should fight fire with water. Instead of hate with hate, we should fight hate with love."

— Phaedra Duhon, a high school student who lives in Becket. She attended the event with her mother and members of the Unitarian Universalist Meeting of South Berkshire.

"Our world feels like it's not getting better ... It's inspiring to see so many people here. We're standing as close as we can to them to say we're not going to allow injustices to happen."

— Paula Duhon, who was with her daughter, Phaedra, of Becket. They held signs for the public advocacy campaign, Standing on the Side of Love, which seeks to stop oppression of all kinds.

"This is fascinating, an amazing turnout ... A great wake-up call that we need to stick to these values and principals. I was inspired. ... There's plenty still to do."

— Colin McCormick, a Williams College alumnus visiting from Washington, D.C.

"People don't really know what's going on in our community. I'm really grateful to be here to see people getting involved."

— Reina Antunez, a family support worker for the Family Support Center at Berkshire Children & Families. She was signing up CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) volunteers to help children whose families are involved in the juvenile and family court systems.

A group of nine student activists from Darrow School in New Lebanon attended the march and rally. Here's what some had to say:

"We were on campus during the election and felt like we had no ability to make an impact and have our say. This was our chance. It was amazing."

— Max Powers,

Darrow School student

"I'm really angry that people aren't treated equally. I found a lot of people here who feel the same, and I'm really glad I came."

— Maddie Nicholson,

Darrow School student

"Seeing all these people here really makes me happy. It fills me up with a lot of hope."

— Naomi Silverman,

Darrow School student

"I was told that there was going to be a couple of dozen people here, not 1,400. It's phenomenal to see how many people came to take time out of their personal day to be here, to do something that feels right."

— Tench Cholnoky,

Darrow School student

"It's important to hear these things talked about today. We've just got to keep it up pretty much."

— Paul Ferch,

Darrow School student

— Compiled by Jenn Smith, Berkshire Eagle staff

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