LOWER MAKEFIELD >> For more than two hours on June 4, Bucks Countians drove through Memorial Park to send a message to the nation: “Enough is Enough: We are done dying.”
In an impressive outpouring of support against racism, violence and injustice, a seemingly endless lstream of cars rolled into the park as a small gathering of public and religious officials stood around the base of the flagpole at the 9-11 Garden of Reflection holding signs of support and candles.
The car parade and vigil took place on the same day as a memorial service for George Floyd, who was killed May 25 at the hands of police in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His death, shown on video around the world, has sparked outage and protests across the country over the treatment of African Americans by law enforcement.
Inside the peaceful embrace of the 9-11 Garden of Reflection, nothing needed to be said as car after car rolled through, many of them with signs honoring the memory of Floyd and other black lives taken at the hands of law enforcement.
One sign read “No justice. No peace.” Another asked, “Who’s side are you on? White silence is violence.” And yet another proclaimed that “Love will overcome hate.”
Just past 7 p.m., the gathering paused to listen to the prayers of the Reverend Stephanie Templin Ashford from Thompson Memorial Presbyterian Church and Rabbi Aaron Gaber from Congregation Brothers of Israel in Newtown and the incoming chair of the Jewish Clergy of Bucks County.
“We fall before you in this great moment of pain at the death of George Floyd and we pray that this will be the turning point,” prayed Templin Ashford, “that this moment of chaos and despair will be the last black body we see on the news, murdered for the world to watch
“We trust that you will birth something new out of this chaos,” she continued. “That you will bring new life and new hope to our communities and to our nation. And that you will stir in us a hunger for justice that cannot be quenched. And that we will work tirelessly until the valleys have been lifted up and the mountains made low so that we can all stand together on equal footing, living in harmony and in the way your beloved intended it to be.”
Rabbi Gerber shared with the gathering that “today we feel boxed in, not because of a pandemic, but because we feel helpless to bring about systemic change that gives everyone the same privilege, the same equity and the same equality. But I know God has not given up on us, nor should we give up on ourselves.
“God is always with us. God sees each one of us. And I see every one of you,” he said.
“Everyone around our country and around the world are standing with masks to protect one another from COVID-19,” he said. “But just the same, we are standing together with many voices, raising one thought. We all are created in God’s image and all of us, no matter our creed, our color, our ethnicity, our gender identity, our faith, we stand together ready to remake this world into one that honors diversity, that honors all people for their God-given abilities, that honors all people no matter who they are. We stand together to create a world where everyone feels safe.
“There is enough dying, enough racism, enough hate in this world,” he said. “The hope I have tonight and the pledge and prayer I offer is to work with elected officials, our law enforcement, our schools, our organizations who wish to make this world and this community a truly just and righteous society that doesn’t just talk the talk, but walks the walk of creating an equal and equitable community for all its residents.”
As daylight faded and the vigil came to a close, they kneeled in candle-lit silence for 8 minutes, 46 seconds – the amount of time Floyd spent pinned on the ground, handcuffed with an officer’s knee on his neck as he grasped for life-saving air.
As the final cars rolled through Memorial Park, the vigil ended quietly as everyone returned home to ponder the images of the evening.
The event was attended by a bi-partisan group of political and community leaders, including U.S. Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick, State Senator Steve Santarsiero, State Reps. Perry Warren and Wendy Ullman, Bucks County Commissioner Bob Harvie and others.
The vigil was organized by the Bucks County NAACP, the Peace Center, State Senator Steve Santarsiero, Rise Up Doylestown, the Network of Victims Assistance, State Rep. Perry Warren and Newtown Township Supervisors David Oxley and Dennis Fisher.