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community response

Early last month, a group of four vandals set out on a hate-fueled excursion in their Mount Dora, Fla., neighborhood--spray cans in hand. Their target was the Traditional Congregation of Mount Dora, a newly erected synagogue that was scheduled to open in two weeks.    On the morning of July 9, 2011, Mount Dora residents woke up to a shocking scene. Anti-Semitic graffiti, as well as other hate message and profane slurs, were spray-painted on several structures of the synagogue.    While it took police officials weeks to arrest James Maple, 22, two juveniles, and twenty-year-old Cory Gallman--the latter lived right down the street from the synagogue-- it took community members a mere two hours to react to the hate. A community unites to clean up graffiti sprayed on the 
“After the bomb went off  ... I asked my daughter whether she was scared. She replied by quoting something I had once said to her: 'Yes, but if you’re not scared, you can’t be brave.'" —Norwegian writer Jo Nesbo, New York Times editorial, "The Past is a Foreign Country," July 26, 2011   Until it happens, it is unimaginable. Children, gathered together because they and their parents believe in building a society where everyone is accepted and respected, are followed to a summer camp and systematically gunned down by a killer who has targeted them because they accept “multiculturalism.”    While horrific events like the July 22 Norway killings spark global trauma, the reflection and action required is close to home. As Americans, we recognize the pain and trauma that emerges from hate and terror. The Sept. 11 attacks, one of the most stunning acts of hate in our country’s history, brought people together and forged a national resolve to resist terrorism. Tragically, it also spawned a xenophobic backlash against Muslims—and those who are perceived to be Muslim—that continues to have deadly consequences both here and around the world.
Gunn High School students sang, Lowell High School students danced, Olympia, Wash. citizens mobilized every facet of the community, and in Newark, Calif., as in Tucson, Ariz., there were angels. Here at Not In Our Town, we highlight communities standing together to fight hate. In our 15 years of making films, we have documented a number of proactive, creative and peaceful responses to hate groups, including the Kansas hate group known as the Westboro Baptist Church (Fred Phelps' family) and white supremacist groups such as Aryan Nations, the Ku Klux Klan and the National Socialist Movement. In January, we noticed a surge of interest in these anti-hate events and rally videos, particularly after the Westboro Baptist Church threatened to protest the funerals of the Arizona shooting victims, and the Tucson community responded en masse. And not surprisingly, one of our most popular videos on is "Gunn High School Sings Away Hate" which has garnered more than 225,000 views on our YouTube channel. The video was shot in 2010, when the Westboro Baptist Church announced they would picket Bay Area schools and Jewish institutions. The students of Gunn High School, located in Palo Alto, Calif., decided they wanted to affirm their own values.
Gettysburg, PA: When folks in Gettysburg, PA heard the Aryan Nations hate group was planning a rally on the very spot where Abraham Lincoln delivered his most famous defense of American democracy, they knew they couldn't sit by in silence."Silence is the welcome mat for hate," notes Ann Van Dyke of Pennsylvania's Human Relations Commission, who has worked with almost two dozen communities throughout the state that were targeted by hate groups. The activist groups that formed in those towns are now part of the Pensylvania Network of Unity Coalitions, longtime members of the Not In Our Town family.In Gettysburg, the Adams Unity Coalition had just six weeks to prepare. They had limited resources. And they had to compete with almost a dozen other festivals taking place that same weekend.
Oakland, CA: Last Thursday, July 8, former BART transit officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the Jan. 1, 2009 death of Oscar Grant, an unarmed young African American man. As feared, that night saw rioting, looting, and destruction in the streets of downtown Oakland. And that's where the local media trained their cameras.
  What can a community do when a hate group comes to town and targets a wide variety of organizations, each of which have different ideas of how to respond -- or not?   That's what happened in Charleston and Wheeling, West Virginia in March 2010. The Westboro Baptist Church hate group announced it would picket Jewish and Catholic institutions, a local university, and, as a last-minute addition designed for maximum emotional anguish, the Montcoal Mine, where a dozen miners had just lost their lives.   How could the community respond, particularly when some people preferred to keep a low profile, while others wanted to stage a loud counter-protest? Who could even lead such a community response, given the different values of the targeted groups?   A coalition of local leaders convened at Temple Israel, one of the targeted institutions, and decided they had to present a united front. The message had to be broad enough to include everyone, but specific enough to show opposition to the hatred espoused by Westboro.  
Why do you care about standing up to hate and intolerance?  This is the question Not In Our Town is posing with a new video campaign, and we want YOU to be a part of it!  We're asking you to make a video response to tell your story of why you're ready to stand up to hate. Make your video: Make a video telling us in 1-2 sentences why YOU personally feel inspired to take a stand against hate and intolerance.  You can do this any way you like: use your flip cam, cell phone camera, laptop, or even make a text video. Then upload your video response to our YouTube video campaign page.  Finally, share the video with at least 3 friends- you can use the "send to a friend" button below or, Facebook is also an easy way to do this!  We are exciting to see your video! Want to participate, but feeling stumped? Here are some writing prompts to get your ideas, feelings, and thoughts flowing. Write whatever comes to mind and let it flow. After this brainstorm, you will come up with your 1-2 sentence answer, but for this part, just write what comes to mind.
March 1, 2010 Report Hate Violence and Community Responses This week: Davis, CA; Montgomery, AL; Austin, TX; West Hanks, NS; San Antonio, TX; San Francisco, CA; Natchitoches, LA; Buffalo, NY
Update: People in Grant County are taking swift action to make sure the Aryan Nations stay away from their community. In the midst of a packed forum sponsored by the local newspaper, community members began organizing a lime green ribbon campaign. Tony Stewart and Norm Gissel, leaders of the Kootenai County Human Rights Task Force shared their successful strategies for dealing with the neo-Nazis. Read more in the Blue Mountain Eagle. Grant County, OR: The Blue Mountain Eagle newspaper in John Day, Oregon, is sponsoring town hall forums this Friday, Feb. 26, to air community concerns about plans by the Aryan Nations to relocate its national headquarters to their small town. When they heard that the hate group's leader was shopping around town recently, looking to buy property for a new compound, store owners and residents poured into the streets to proclaim that the white supremacist organization is not welcome in this community.