GREENFIELD — As the sky grew dark over the Greenfield Town Common Friday evening, the sound of nearly 100 local residents united in song grew louder and louder.
While waving flags and decorated posters, men and women of all ages clapped and swayed to the tune of Annie Hassett singing “Brand New Way.” The only interruption was the occasional honk from a nearby car, or disapproving shout from a driver.
The gathering, a counter rally to President Donald Trump’s inauguration, was held “to defend democracy and civil rights” and to “protest that the loser of the presidential election is now becoming our president,” according to event organizer David Cohen. Throughout the evening, local activists, including Cohen, gave impassioned speeches calling for group action.
“Here in Franklin County, we must fight back against Donald Trump and continue the political revolution,” said “Jobs With Justice” organizer Eric Bauer.
“America’s already great, but it’s up to us to make sure it keeps getting better,” said State Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru.
Mark spoke of the disappointment he felt while watching the inauguration.
“I didn’t hear a word about unity. I didn’t hear a word about democracy. I didn’t hear a word about coming together to heal the nation,” he said. Instead, Mark described Trump as tapping into hatred, anger and frustration.
Ivette Hernandez, recording secretary for Service Employees International Union Local 509, stepped up to the microphone to say she would not succumb to the hatred.
“This is where all the bigotry is going to end,” she said.
One of the attendees, local and international activist Doug Wight, said his fellow attendees “should look at the election of Donald Trump as a golden opportunity” to step up and become courageous, nonviolent activists.
The various speakers demanded improved civil rights, jobs, and access to affordable housing, health care and internet in rural towns. Philippe Simon, chairman of Greenfield’s Human Rights Commission, encouraged attendees to enact change through organizing.
“Our real strength is in our numbers and public expression, like what we’re doing today,” he said.
Some attendees will return to the Town Common on Saturday for the Women Standing Our Ground Rally in solidarity with the Women’s March on Washington. Mary McClintock, co-organizer of Saturday’s rally, said she is expecting between 1,000 and 3,000 local residents to converge on the common from 12:30 to 2 p.m.
The rally also attracted a few Trump supporters.
Mark Shea of Greenfield stood at the curb with his son and his son’s friend, who asked not to be named, holding a sign with a cartoon frog wearing a red “Make America Great Again” hat.
Shea described himself as “not a real Trump lover” and said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was his first choice for president. However, he came to the Common hoping to show that “there’s a difference in opinion,” even in Greenfield, where residents are often liberal in their views.
“Everything is one-sided,” Shea said.
The three also hoped to counter the stigmas surrounding Trump supporters, particularly that they are violent, by standing peacefully on the Common.
“I’m tired of being called a racist,” Shea added.