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Watertown comes together to show solidarity against hate and violence

Church leaders in Watertown held a rally on the Public Square Tuesday in response to the recent shootings across the country. The crowd of nearly 100 came to pray and listen to clergy speak about the importance of accepting one another regardless of race, background or faith.

Cars thundered by as people passed out water and searched for shade under the trees. Church leaders from congregations across Watertown took turns addressing the crowd.

Rev. Jeffery Smith, First Baptist Church’s first black pastor, organized the rally.

“From Ferguson, to Louisiana, to Syria to Dallas and every place else. It’s about every life. It’s about lives matter," Smith said to the crowd.

Credit Julia Botero / WRVO News
First Baptist Church's Reverend Jeffrey Smith organized the rally.

Smith revealed he’s been pulled over by police and handcuffed simply because of the color of his skin. He said after the deaths last week of black men in Louisiana and Minnesota and five police officers in Dallas, he felt compelled to reach out to his community. 

“I just felt like the lord tapped me on the shoulder and said you do something. Because if we don’t stand for righteousness, we don’t stand for nothing.”

Bernard Riley said he was shocked and saddened by the recent shootings. 

“I think the response is to get out and love on people. I think that is the only response to hurt."

Riley said as an African American man he feels safe in the North Country. “I feel like I have a lot of amazing people in our church, in our local community, on the police force, in our black community, in our white community and if you focus on the little things that are wrong, you’re going to miss a whole lot of things that are right,” said Riley.

Credit Julia Botero / WRVO News
People at the rally wanted to show their support for every person who has lost their life because of violence.

Church leaders addressed race and racism head on. Chris Hopper is associate pastor at the New Life Christian Church in Watertown. He said everyone needs to acknowledge that racism still exists, even here. 

“As a white person it is my duty to address this and be behind it. Black Lives Matter is a Christian cause, it’s a white cause, we’ve made it exclusively a black cause and that is unjust, unfair and reprehensible.”

Hopper said gatherings like this one where people of all backgrounds come together to support each other needs to happen more often all over the country.