With prompting from Dennis Powell, the attendees took a moment to hug each other and tell their neighbors, friends, and family that they loved them.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — State Rep. Tricia Farley-Bouvier is not going to take a moment of silence for the victims of the Orlando, Fla., shooting.
She's not going to take 49, one for each one. Instead, she's going to be loud.
She's going to be loud in fighting to stop the list of shootings from growing. She's going to be loud in her support for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. And she wants everyone to join her in her fight to "stop the madness."
"I choose not to have a moment of silence or 49 moments of silence in response to what happened in Orlando. I will not be silent. I will not stand silently by when this kind of insanity is happening in our country. We need to all take responsibility," Farley-Bouvier said. "Standing silently isn't a sign of respect for those who lost their lives in Orlando, taking action, using our voices, that is what's going to be respectful to the victims in Orlando."
Farley-Bouvier was one of 11 speakers to address hundreds of people who gathered in Park Square on Tuesday in a vigil for those who died in the shooting and standing against gun violence and hate.
"This is not simply an attack on a club, this was a hate crime. This was a hate crime meant to terrorize people, a hate crime meant to make people feel uncomfortable for going out dancing and being with their friends and neighbors. And that is not acceptable," Farley-Bouvier said.
Orlando is just the latest in many mass shootings in America. A gunman stormed into the Pulse Nightclub early Sunday morning and opened fire, killing 49 and injuring 53.
Dennis Powell, president of the local NAACP branch, called it the worst shooting in modern days. But, it wasn't the only one in American history, he said. There were massacres of black men, women, and children in 1917 in St. Louis, 1919 in Arkansas, a riot in Tulsa in 1921. And all throughout history, innocent men and women have been killed. Powell asked what they all had in common.
"Hate," he answered his own question.
"History, they died because of the hate for the color of their skin. Modern massacre, they died because of hate because same-sex individuals chose to love one another. History massacres died because of nothing, because of absolute nothing, just being born, absolutely nothing. Modern massacre died because they loved, because they loved," Powell said. "Hate is a taught behavior and let's not ever think otherwise. You are not born hating, you are taught to hate."
With messages of love and tolerance, the speakers and the crowd roared and sang together and called for action to stop the violence. The shooting was miles away from Berkshire County but still hundreds are impacted and are sad, discouraged, and angry.
North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright was angry when he watched the news early Sunday morning detailing the incident.
"Sunday morning we all watched with sadness and anger at the horrific events in Orlando that left 49 dead and 53 wounded. In that attack on 102 people, their families, the friends, their community suffered unimaginable and unconscionable lose in this act of terror and act of hate," Alcombright said. "Not only what this an attack on all Americans but shamefully and without cause specifically targeted on the LGBT community."
While the LGBT community was the target, Alcombright says the impacts are far more reaching.
"Here in Berkshire County, we have many communities. We have the LGBT community. We have communities of color. We have religious communities. We have school communities just to name a few. But that common thread, the thread that brings us here tonight, is that word: community," Alcombright said.
Dozens of rainbow flags were flown to show unity with the LGBT community.
Tuesday's vigil gave that entire a community a chance to grieve together as a community and mourn for the victims and their families.
"Although this specific tragedy was aimed at the LGBT community, we have all witnessed other tragedies that have attacked other groups of people. It was then I realized that this is not an LGBT issue that this is a human race issue," City Council President Peter Marchetti said.
Marchetti spoke as both a member of the LGBT community and an elected official and called for the community to unite and look past the things that divide each individual and group.
"The differences that separate us should, could, and would always unite us in our struggle for equality and the need to protect and support each other instead of a community of several different groups working separately," Marchetti said.
But for these tragedies to stop, love needs to win out.
"For compassion to win, we need to be wholeheartedly curious about all cultures and lifestyles. For kindness to win, we have to remember that every person thrives in a place where radical acceptance is practiced. For harmony to win, we have to work harder to embrace and celebrate our differences," Mayor Linda Tyer said.
For Farley-Bouvier, that love is not simply sending "thoughts and prayers," it's stopping the hate.
"We have to ask are thoughts and prayers enough? Prayers remind us of what is most important in life. And thoughts inform us how to turn those into real actions. However, thoughts and prayers are not enough," Farley-Bouvier said.
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Pittsfield School Committee Votes to Change Taconic Mascot
By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
The School Committee debates a change in team mascots for the two Pittsfield high schools.
PITTSFIELD, Mass. — Taconic High School will no longer be the Braves' House.
The School Committee on Wednesday voted to change 50-year-old team mascot and begin the process of determining a new, more culturally acceptable identity for the vocational school.
"I think this is going to be very divisive and very upsetting for this school," Chairwoman Katherine Yon said. "It is just a very difficult decision to come to and it feels like all of the decisions during this time are difficult."
The issue has come up during public comment over the past few months with callers asking the School Committee to change the name of the Taconic Braves and the Pittsfield High School Generals.
Late into the six-hour meeting Tuesday, councilors came to the agreement that although Connell is spending much of his time quarantining out of state, his primary residence is still in Pittsfield.
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