Enquirer Herald

NAACP, faith leaders plan ‘peace keepers march’ in downtown York

Steve Love organized a peace march in York after Christian leaders in York County called on members of their faith to embrace Muslims.

In light of recent threats against Muslims in the U.S., Love wanted to show that people of various races, religious faiths and cultural backgrounds in York County stand together.

When nine people died in a June 17 church shooting in Charleston and a 21-year-old man was charged with the killings in what is being investigated as a hate crime, Love said, the need for York County to show solidarity seemed even more crucial.

“It hit close to home,” said Love, a state NAACP leader and member of the Western York County branch of the organization, which is organizing the 5:30 p.m. June 25 downtown march, to begin at York City Hall and go to the York County Courthouse.

Love said he has invited community leaders, faith groups, law enforcement officials and others to join in what he called a “peace keepers march.”

One of the goals, he said, “is to make our communities stronger, safer and more united.” Love said he doesn’t know how many people will participate.

“This is what we were trying not to let happen in our community,” Love said of the Charleston shooting. “The county needs to come together so these types of things don’t happen.”

The Rev. Sam McGregor, pastor at Allison Creek Presbyterian Church, jump-started the effort for Christians to embrace Muslims because of threats against Muslims during the trial of Robert Doggart.

Doggart, a failed congressional candidate from Tennessee, pleaded guilty to plotting to kill Muslims in a religious community in New York.

A similar Muslim community, Holy Islamville, has existed in York for nearly 30 years.

McGregor and 23 other York County religious leaders submitted a letter to local newspapers stating they are “opposed to any acts of violence or threats of violence against anyone due to their religious affiliation.”

McGregor said it was “providential” that the march had already been planned when the Charleston shooting took place

“It allows us to give witness to the community for something much different than racial hatred that leads to violence,” McGregor said.

The march “gives us an opportunity to both rally together, and also to really call for an honest dialogue about race and extremism, and how our language that we use when we’re with like-minded people, that language can be violent, and that language can lead to violence,” he said.

McGregor, who said he will speak during the event, said people “can’t just sit back and claim innocence” when harmful rhetoric that de-personalizes other groups is accepted and is allowed to be expressed.

“I know what some people say in closed company,” McGregor said. “And I hope that an event like this allows others of us to come out and let a stronger voice be heard, that says that rhetoric is no longer acceptable in our culture, whoever it’s directed against, whether it’s directed against whites or blacks or Christians or Muslims or Jews or gay people.”

Love said the march “is proactive, not reactive. It’s just an opportunity for ministers and faith-based groups and others to show that York County is not going to be a Ferguson, we’re not going to be a Baltimore. We’re going to stand together.”

Jennifer Becknell •  803-329-4077

Want to go?

A peace keepers march of faith and community leaders organized by the Western York County NAACP will be held June 25 in downtown York, with line-up at 5 p.m., a 5:15 p.m. prayer and 5:30 p.m. march from York City Hall to the York County Courthouse.