Tucson's March Against White Supremacy and Racism: A Reflection from Organizer, Billy Kovacs
Below, you will find a reflection on the march by the initial organizer, Billy Kovacs, as he explains what inspired the curation. This excerpt was taken from an exclusive interview that will be posted soon.
"Late at night,
"(I think we all look at our phones and scroll through the internet), I found the alt-right flyer that they were sending out. You see that with the torches and the news coverage the night before. The news didn't sensationalize it but they put a concerned effort to cover it. The next day you wake up and you see it evolve into something that got a little bit bigger and a little bit bigger. Keith and I were talking to each other in disbelief that we were seeing this amount of people with torches and militia gear with crusader shields clashing in a city close to Emancipation Park.
"I saw it on a live feed first before it went on CNN. It was a random live feed from someone on that same back alley where that car was going down. I saw it real time. You see the car barrel in and it hits people. I grabbed Keith and told him what just happened. Then the car backed up.
"You can tell what someones intentions are through their actions.
"That car backed up so fast, the driver was looking to hit people. At that moment, I knew it got out of hand. Thirty to forty-five minutes later, the president gave his speech.
"He had the opportunity to redirect what was going on, to make this an incident and not fuel the fire. It was his one line where he said, "the amount of violence on both sides is the problem." It was like... you're waiting for that person that you know to change. He had that one opportunity to change! He's never had to do it on this level before. It's always been these issues where some people can agree with it, some people can't agree with it, or 'it's just Trump being Trump.' This is something that's black and white. Every single person should come out against white supremacy and hatred. This is a one-sided equation. Those protestors were there protesting a hate group.
"When that went out, that one message, we felt we had to do something about this.
"I called Joel Fienman, who ran for District Attorney against Barbara LaWall. I was checking parks to see if we could get a permit just for a gathering, a candlelit vigil, or something because they just released that one person was dead.
"It had to be a direct response from our community to say this wasn't okay.
"We were about to just do a rally at Hotel Congress but we got with seven other individuals and made it more about our community and the fact that Tucson is different than Charlottesville. We're a community that comes together on tragedies like this. We saw it on January 9th.
"We got with Anakarina Rodriguez from Mi Familia Vota, Zaira Livier from LUPE Tucson, Amanda Villa from Luche, Sierra Yamanaka from The Young Democrats, Marion Chubon who's an organizer for a group called Represent Me AZ, Adam Ragan and Joel. I went over to the Hotel and I asked the owners if they were okay with doing it there. They were completely on board and wanted to show a message of solidarity.
"From that point, I went over to Joel's house, grabbed the laptop and made a map. Joel picked out a route that made sense: go down 4th Avenue, go to 2nd St., go to the University, the mosque, MLK, and circle back around to hit the rainbow sidewalk. I'd imagined through each one of those places we would gain a little more momentum and 300/400 people would come out.
"Two hours went by after we put the event up and there was 300 people going, then 600 people going, then 800 people going...
"I ran over to the Hotel and every single person that worked that night volunteered their time because they believe in this community.
"Owen Chandler, who gave the invocation, I met on the first day of my campaign. He was the first one I reached out to because he openly accepts LGBT members in his church and he preaches inclusivity of religions.
"Everything I pushed in that event was me as a community member, first and foremost. I reiterated that to every single one of our organizers because they needed to know that this was a community event and not some politicized event. Yeah we organized it but it's not my voice, it's their collective voice and the voice of the community.
"We hit three o'clock at the hotel, the stage is set up, the mics were there. The Gloo Factory came out and donated a thousand dollars worth of signs. Four/five organizations dropped off water. Tucson Police Department called me and said they understood this grew to a thousand people and the chief gave them the authority to protect us because they believe in our community and what we were doing. They wanted to make sure we were safe, the streets were closed down, and we got through traffic through the whole march. It was the coolest moment.
"All these things came around because of who we are as a community.
"It's the same reason why I believed in Bernie Sanders because people believe in community. Community is that bond that we shouldn't be breaking.
"When you look back and see three thousand people and see signs of love, not hatred, that's what this country is about. That whole march was America. Not to sound patriotic but that is what our country is about! We come together at times of adversity to show our true colors. That's what we need to do on a large scale, in every single community, and not just the days where there's adversity but, also, the days where there's not.
"When asked what my message is going forward, don't just come out and march with us when something happens. Make that change you want to see in your own life. Open that door for that person, give that person a flower, make sure that person is okay.
"Promote peace and love in your own life.
"Those small changes will affect other people and those other people will affect other people. If we all do that, and I know it sounds kumbaya, that's how we change. If we don't understand what that community togetherness was, then it's lost," reflects Billy Kovacs.