By Larry Austin
Island Dispatch Editor
Cold but bracing weather greeted 15 people at the Grand Island Rotary Gazebo in the Town Commons for a brief peace rally Saturday afternoon.
Islanders Bekki Orton and Kristen Obarka organized the rally that lasted about 20 minutes and included speeches, prayers and songs.
"We rise up by lifting each other up, not pulling each other down," Orton told the assembled, which included Town Supervisor Nathan McMurray and opponents of trapping on public land.
"I would like if we could talk about disarming hate and encouraging unity, which is the biggest word in community," Orton said.
Obarka said that considering the things happening in the community, "We thought this was a good time to come together and say that this is a good place. Grand Island is a great, open, welcoming community, and we wanted everybody to feel safe and comfortable here in our community."
The rally in the Town Commons was a great place to come and speak their minds, Obarka said, and though not as many people showed up as she hoped, "that's OK, it's a start, and that's the important thing."
Cathy Rieley-Goddard, a pastor at Riverside-Salem United Church of Christ/Disciples of Christ, led the assembled in prayers, one by Julia Butterfly Hill, and "Prayer for Peace" by Pir o Murshid Inayat Khan.
Dave Reilly and Nicole Gerber, co-founders of the Citizen Coalition for Wildlife and Environment, spoke about their anti-trapping initiative and the unity they said it has created. Gerber called trapping a community concern and said she was strengthened by the compassion people of the Island have shown once becoming aware of a trapping issue.
McMurray spoke and said, "I just wanted to say it's a cold, cold Saturday, but the fact that people came out is great. I'm just sad there's not more people out."
He told those who attended, "Keep fighting for what you believe. And if what you believe is empathy and kindness and being kind to others, that's the most powerful idea in the whole world."
The rally concluded with the singing of "Let There Be Peace on Earth" before participants went into the Town Hall.