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Thousands march for 4 Freedoms in Pittsfield, protesting ascendance of bigotry, hatred

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By Sunday, Jan 8, 2017 We the People 11

Pittsfield — At precisely 1 p.m. on Saturday (Jan. 7), the first row of what Pittsfield Police estimated to be 2,000 participants stepped off the curb in front of St. Joseph’s Church at 414 North Street, Pittsfield, and proceeded down North Street to the First Church of Christ Congregational on Park Square. Organized by the 4 Freedoms Coalition, the march celebrated the 76th anniversary of the State of the Union address in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt delineated the Four Freedoms – freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, and freedom from fear. To listen to FDR’s speech, click on this video link.

The procession fo 2,000 marchers on North Street in Pittsfield. Photo: Marcie Setlow

The procession of 2,000 marchers on North Street in Pittsfield. Photo: Marcie Setlow

The coalition had brought together members of the community to protest hate and bigotry in all forms. As of January 6, this Coalition counted more than 150 community partners, including the City of Pittsfield, elected officials, local businesses, media outlets, local non-profits and religious institutions. Click here for a list of partners.

The peaceful but resolute march turned the corner onto Park Square and filed into the First Church of Christ Congregational for a line-up of speakers representing the many sectors of the Coalition. The Reverend James Lumsden welcomed marchers to his church. He introduced the Reverend Sheila Sholes-Ross, Mistress of Ceremonies, who retitled her role, to be both Mistress of Commitment (because she wanted all attendees to leave the event committed to further action) and Mistress of Cooperation (because she wanted all the ensuing speakers to cooperate with the rule that they limit their remarks to three minutes.)

A standing room-only crowd in the Church of Christ Congregational in Pittsfield to hear speakers appeal for observance of the four freedoms. Photo: Marcie Setlow

The standing room-only crowd in the Church of Christ Congregational in Pittsfield to hear speakers appeal for the observance of the four freedoms. Photo: Marcie Setlow


U.S. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts)

U.S. Sen. Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts)

And cooperate they did, with clear and succinct messages. Mayor Linda Tyer led off by declaring her city of Pittsfield to be a place of tolerance and acceptance. U.S. Sen. Edward Markey followed with a rousing speech, reminding participants that Massachusetts is the place where things begin. “ The American Revolution began here. Opposition to the war in Vietnam began here. The first universal health care began here. The country’s highest minimum wage began here. Let the fight to preserve freedom begin here.”


U.S. Rep. Richard E. Neal.

Similarly stirring remarks came from the diverse roster of speakers who followed: U.S. Congressman Richard E. Neal (“As we start to debate those bedrock guarantees that have made America a much more equitable and better place – Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act — let’s hope we can bequeath to succeeding generations the good that came to us.”); Ethan Zuckerman, Director of the MIT Center on Civic Media (“The way we achieve freedom from fear is through solidarity.  We need to listen, to speak, and to stand together against fear.”); Ayla Wallace, a student at Miss Hall’s S

chool, offered guidance to her 10-year-old sister who is learning about slavery (“You may have me in chains, but my mind will never be tamed and never will I let my voice and my freedom be denied.”); Attorney Yahirah Amatul-Wadud,

Attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud. Photo: Marcie Setlow

Attorney Tahirah Amatul-Wadud. Photo: Marcie Setlow

Board member, Massachusetts chapter of the Council on American Islamic Relationships (“Let’s celebrate our pluralism. Let’s increase our religious literacy. Learn what your own beliefs are and learn what others believe in. You’ll start to see that there are more commonalities than differences.”); Attorney James Roosevelt, grandson of F.D.R. (“Today we face unprecedented assaults on each of the four freedoms. We are confronted by a culture of weapons and verbal assaults. It is essential that all Americans rally to protect our democracy. Our leaders and we ourselves must defend the four freedoms.”)

Eleanor Velez, Director of the Berkshire Community College Multicultural Center noted: “I am originally from Mexico, but I am not a rapist or a murderer or a thief. I am basically just a nice person. The American Dream can become the American Nightmare in times of intolerance when immigrants and naturalized citizens are made to feel afraid. We need to remember that, for most of us, underneath the skin is another really nice person.”

Eleanor Velez, director of Berkshire Community College Multicultural Center

Eleanor Velez, director of Berkshire Community College Multicultural Center. Photo: Marcie Setlow

Peter Marchetti, Pittsfield City Council president and a representative of the LGBTQ community, quoted Taylor Swift: “Why make miserable for someone when you can use your positive energy for good,” and concluded with his own words: “We know love and respect can overcome hate and intolerance.”

Elizabeth Recko Morrison, 2015 Berkshire Labor Person of the Year, talked about how important it is for schools to educate people to earn a living (“Nothing is more liberating than knowing you can pay your bills.”) and urged citizen action (“We must regain our sense of civic responsibility. We must listen to each other even when people are not talking about our issues. We do not always need to agree to stand united. You are what democracy looks like.”)

And finally, Dennis Powell, President of the Berkshire County Branch of the NAACP, reminded

Dennis Powell,

Dennis Powell, President of the Berkshire County Branch of the NAACP. Photo: Marcie Setlow

us that Eleanor Roosevelt referred to the Four Freedoms when advocating for the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the United Nations in 1948. He concluded the program by exhorting, “Let’s make these four freedoms from 1941 have true meaning in 2017.”

At the end of the program, the Reverend Sheila Sholes-Ross urged all attendees to go to the tables manned by participating organizations and to commit themselves to positive action in the months and years ahead.

To listen to the speeches, beginning with remarks by U.S. Sen. Edward Markey, click here (courtesy of Bill Densmore).

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11 Comments   Add Comment

  1. Drs. Elaine and Fred Panitz says:

    We have personally watched Eleanor Velez grow and live the American Dream. More than being a nice person, she worked hard to help others while she struggled to make ends meet and become an outstanding higher education graduate.

  2. GMHeller says:

    Given the number of Democrat politicians in attendance at this rally — Ed Markey, Richard Neal, Farley-Bouvier, Pignatelli, Hinds, Tyer, Marchetti, and on and on — all preaching hard-Left Liberal Democrat talking points to the wildly cheering crowd, this event sure sounds like a warmed-over Clinton/Obama campaign event for those angry at the outcome of the 2016 election.

  3. GMHeller says:

    Also, there’s hypocrisy here along with the Democrat hyperbole re ‘Fear’ over the government taking steps to protect US borders from persons who would enter the country illegally.
    According to Friday’s Washington Times:
    “In 2006, under the George W. Bush administration, Congress passed a bill called the Secure Fence Act, which mandated double-layer fencing from San Diego to the southern tip of Texas. In 2007, through the appropriations process, the language was amended to certify 700 miles of fencing to be required, at the discretion of the Department of Homeland Security.
    Twenty-six Senate Democrats voted for the measure, including Chuck Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton.
    ‘Democrats are solidly behind controlling the border, and we support the border fence,’ Ms. Feinstein, California Democrat, told the Los Angeles Daily News at the time. ‘We have to get tough on the border. There’s no question the border is a sieve.’
    In a 2006 speech to the Council on Foreign Relations, Mrs. Clinton said: ‘There isn’t any sensible approach except to do what we need to do simultaneously: you know, secure our borders with technology and personnel, physical barriers if necessary in some places.’
    And in pushing for comprehensive immigration reform in 2009, Mr. Schumer praised the Secure Fence Act for making the U.S.-Mexican border less porous….”
    SEE: ‘GOP to use Democrats’ past votes against them; Feinstein, Schumer all voted to build wall’, By Kelly Riddell – The Washington Times – Friday, January 6, 2017

    1. w germain says:

      You get your “news” and information from The Washington Times? It is owned by Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity, run by Rev. Sun Myung Moon and proclaiming he established the Times “in response to heaven’s direction” and that “The Washington Times will become the instrument in spreading the truth about God to the world.” The paper has a long history of “inaccurate” reporting and fabrication of issues. The paper promotes various pseudosciences (creationism, anti-environmentalism, global warming denial, false claims about abortion and abstinence-only sex education) and bigotry (homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, anti-secularism). But you have a right to your opinions, right to read whatever you wish because you have The Bill of Rights. And by the way (responding to your previous post) all of us who were at the 4 Freedoms rally were there to protect YOUR right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

  4. Pete says:

    The Congress refuses to pass/address any sensible legislation that addresses guest workers, a process endorsed by Reagan, GW Bush and John McCane. Currently, there are more people returning to Mexico than entering the US. More people are coming from Central America, maybe the wall should be erected in Guatemala? Perhaps a process that allows businesses to legally use guest workers would allow us to stem the tide, and enable us to know who is coming and going. No one wants illegal people entering the country despite the Right wing accusations. We need to quit sticking our heads in the sand and come up with a workable solution. Tightening borders is needed but there is a demand for this low wage labor that the Republicans won’t admit exists. Illegal immigration is used as a wedge issue that many of the GOP uses to get re-elected. A solution to the problem removes this issue from their arsenal of divisive issues to which they have no solutions. They can build walls, ceilings and basements, so long as there is a demand for this labor and conditions in Latin America remain tenuous, we will have illegal entry. Why not try something that might work?

  5. Nate says:

    It is odd that the protesters used two Pops Peterson “reinventing Rockwell” images instead of all four of the Rockwell originals. Why did they make this aesthetic decision?

  6. james m says:

    It’s called the Amerikan dream for a reason. You have to be asleep to believe it.

  7. Sheldon Hoxie says:

    What exactly is “freedom from fear” and how does the government guarantee it?

    1. DB says:

      They can’t guarantee it…but they should never incite fear to cram thru legislation that is bad for the he country…Patriot Act was a perfect example. Ever hear of yellow cake, wmd’s…..terms inserted into fearmongering specahes so many times we couldn’t count. Done for the purpose of scaring the citizenry enough to get that “Patriot” act passed. It is a war tactic used to scare your own people so they will accept the governments desired outcome.
      And now, we have a fear mongering president whipping up predjudice and fear to get walls built, deportations and the like. Instead of calling on our kinder angels…..if you dont like what the guy next to you says…punch him in the face…what a disgrace! Absolutely disgraceful!
      That You dont need to worry about what your government is about to do to you…or to others on your behalf. That what freedom from fear means. ..Not that you are afraid of the “different” person that just moved next door.

      1. Sheldon Hoxie says:

        So it’s basically “freedom” from right-wing politics?

    2. Shawn G. says:

      George Carlin, RIP

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