Despite the robes, suits and religious stoles, thirteen religious leaders weren’t on the steps of City Hall to worship.
The Alachua County Faith Leaders Alliance gathered Tuesday afternoon to speak to about 30 people in wake of a shooting that killed 11 people at the Tree of Life Synagogue in a Pittsburgh suburb Saturday morning.
Twenty-two local faith leaders wrote an official statement after the shooting to denounce hate speech and anti-semitism, said the Rev. Catherine Dearlove, a co-founder of the alliance. Five leaders took turns reading the statement, followed by individual speeches.
Dearlove, of the Trinity Metropolitan Community Church, organized the talk for members of the Alliance to promote peaceful rhetoric and show solidarity with the Jewish community. The Alliance also held a talk before white nationalist Richard Spencer spoke at UF in October of 2017, she said.
“Even though we believe all different things, Gainesville can see that we can come together and respect a mutual love for humanity,” she said. “We would like our Jewish friends to know that we are with them.”
Jean-Paul Calixte, 51, a member of the Parkview Baptist Church, came to hear the group speak because “silence sends the wrong message,” he said.
“When you have the local leaders, including the mayor, make a statement about a particular incident of catastrophe, it makes you feel that we are all in this together,” he said.
Mayor Lauren Poe told the crowd that Gainesville residents do not condone hate and must call it out whether it be on a playground or at City Hall.
“The only way we make this anti-semitic mass murder the last is by taking action against it,” he said,” and that is what we are going to do right now.”