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Santa Rosa rally attendees show support for people of Ukraine

A rally of nearly 100 people gathered in Courthouse Square in downtown Santa Rosa Sunday afternoon in solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

The rally was organized by the Peace and Justice Center of Sonoma County in response to the call for a “Global Day of Action” by Code Pink: Women for Peace, a grassroots and social justice organization with offices in Los Angeles and Washington D.C.

The group supports a number of initiatives including ending militarism, while advocating for redirection of those resources into health care, education, green jobs and other similar activities.

“War is terror. It’s not something you watch on TV. It’s terror,” said Attila Nagy, a former president of the nonprofit Peace and Justice Center. “Imagine, tanks rolling down Fourth Street (in Santa Rosa) and shooting into buildings. This is about peace. It’s about thinking about how bombs are falling on Ukrainian families right now.”

Nagy, 74, a Hungarian American, said he is reminded of when he, his mother and older sister fled from Hungary to Austria along with 2,000 others in 1957.

It was in the midst of the Hungarian Revolution, where rebels rose up against efforts within the Eastern European country’s government to overthrow Stalinism in order to return to so-called socialist ideals.

Troops from the former Soviet Union eventually invaded Hungary in 1956 and squashed the revolution.

As the world now watches Russia’s attacks on the Ukraine, expressions of support for the Ukrainian people are taking place all over the world in the forms of peace rallies, offers of asylum for those fleeing the country, and public displays of blue and yellow — the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

Such displays can be seen all across Sonoma County. This past week, a photo of a yellow and blue sign reading Ukrainian River, which someone taped over a sign for the Russian River in Guerneville, was posted on Facebook. By Sunday, it had received more than 760 shares.

At Sunday’s rally in downtown Santa Rosa, people in cars driving past the gathering honked their horns in support of those standing on the sidewalks.

Some rally attendees held signs that read, “Stop Thinking Like Americans, Start Thinking Like a Humanist” and “Humanity is Out of its Mind.”

Speakers representing various groups including North Coast Coalition for Palestine, Veterans for Peace and the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights spoke out against Russia’s attack on the Ukraine and urged solidarity with the people of Ukraine.

One speaker, Lindsey Bell-Kerr, a pastor of Christ Church United Methodist in Santa Rosa, urged defiance against tyrannical oppression.

“It’s essential that we defend freedom and liberty everywhere,” Bell-Kerr said. “Standing up against Russia is an extension of us standing up against forces of war and capitalism around the world. If Russia goes unchecked, who knows what is next?”

One speaker attempted to help attendees understand the emotional and physical strain military action can have on those who are enduring such violent attacks. She urged those in attendance to consider what it would feel like if such a situation were taking place in Sonoma County.

“It’s hard to believe our eyes when we see the effects of the bombs dropped on civilian neighborhoods, devastating the neighborhoods where children used to play. Can you imagine that happening here?” asked Therese Walrath, a Palestinian American member of the North Coast Coalition for Palestine.

You can reach Staff Writer Mya Constantino at mya.constantino@pressdemocrat.com. @searchingformya on Twitter.

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