AMHERST — More than 100 people held flickering candles on Wednesday evening on the Amherst Common. They gathered for a Vigil for Love and Unity, held in the wake of Donald Trump’s presidential victory.
The event was organized through both Facebook and word of mouth in order to gather people for a moment of solidarity. The crowd took turns passing a microphone. They discussed how to move forward after the results of the 2016 election.
There was a wide range of emotion expressed by the various speakers over the course of the vigil. While some people expressed disgust towards those who voted for Trump, the majority of attendees discussed how the community can come together as people, neighbors and as a society following Trump’s election.
“How can we work towards a better civil society, a better self governance … We know that it takes constant work, it takes constant vigilance and it’s not something that is somehow natural to our culture or natural to anything,” said Amilcar Shabazz, an Amherst resident who helped organize the vigil.
A feeling of despair reverberated around the vigil, though attendees stressed the importance of community in this moment in history.
“With this election … there’s just a lot of sadness, so we say ‘Let’s come together’ instead,” Shabazz said.
Vigil attendees expressed consistent fear throughout the vigil — ranging from fear for the nation’s future to fear for their own bodies.
“I don’t feel as safe as I did yesterday,” said Amherst College graduate Hannah G., a transgender woman. Hannah said she is scared for herself and her LGBTQ community.
Hannah said Trump’s victory gave a voice to — and legitimized — many of the stigmas that LGBTQ people face their entire lives.
“If you are cis person, please, please stand up for us right now. We are very, very frightened,” Hannah said.
After each speaker entered the middle of the vigil circle and addressed the crowd, cheers and affirmations of support rang out from the gathered attendees.
Yet as the crowd dispersed, an unmistakable sense of sadness remained amongst the crowd. Each speaker expressed disappointment and sadness over Trump’s victory.
“That kind of violent fear of anything different is now something that half the country finds acceptable.” said Hannah.
Email Ian at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @i_munnelly.