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Vigil held in Greenport for victims of Pittsburgh synagogue shooting

About 50 people gathered around the flag pole at Mitchell Park Sunday night for a hastily called vigil in memory of people killed over the weekend because of their race or religion.

The vigil was called by the Southold Town Anti-Bias Task Force in response to the killing of 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh Saturday morning, and what’s believed to be a racially motivated killing of two African-Americans at a Kentucky Kroger grocery store last Wednesday, according to Sonia Spar, the co-chair of the task force.

“We have issues that demand our attention and demand our voice and demand our action,” Ms. Spar said Sunday. “We cannot keep silent and we cannot be indifferent to what is going on.

“Hatred and bigotry are bringing violent acts toward society. The violence and the hateful rhetoric that we’re hearing is escalating and going unchecked and, unfortunately, we’re beginning to see hate crimes and hate incidents.”

People are being targeted for who they are, she said.

“These people were killed for being Jews,” she said of the Pittsburgh incident. “Two African-Americans were killed in the store in Louisville being African-American. We cannot let fear take over us. We need to stand in solidarity.”

The group read the names of those killed and had a moment of silence.

“I stand for respect and civility on behalf of those for whom no respect and civility was shown,” said Susan Dingle, a task force member and poet. She specified Jamal Khashoggi, the Saudi Arabian journalist and critic of the Saudi government, who is believed to have been murdered and dismembered inside the Saudi consulate in Turkey.

“He spoke up on behalf of those who had no voice,” she said.

“We’re here because this is incredibly alarming,” said task force member Carolyn Peabody. She invited others to say why they came.

“We’re here because of intolerance, but I think we need to be more intolerant to these hateful people,” one woman said. “I don’t want violence against them, but we need to speak up.”

She said people can’t tolerate hateful talk when they encounter it.

Ms. Spar said people need to “tone down the discourse,” especially around children.

One man at the vigil said he felt Sunday should have been a national day of mourning. A woman countered that it’s already a national day of mourning, adding, “We don’t need a press conference.”

Speakers pointed out that this is the third time in the last few years that a shooter has targeted a place of worship.

Another speaker said President Donald Trump recently said armed guards should be at synagogues.

“That’s not the America I want,” he said.

Greenport Village Board members Doug Roberts, Mary Bess Phillips and Julia Roberts attended the vigil, as did Congressional candidate Perry Gershon and state assembly candidate Rona Smith, both Democrats.

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Photo caption: The vigil was held in Mitchel Park Sunday evening. (Tim Gannon photo)