WATCH: About 100 march against bigotry in Wilton
—Jeannette Ross photos
About 100 people, anxious to show intolerance of race, religion, gender, or ethnicity is not acceptable in Wilton, took to the sidewalks on Nov. 11. They walked peacefully from the Wilton train station to and around Wilton Center, where they assembled on the Town Green.
They carried signs that said “NO Tolerance for Intolerance,” Stand Up to Bigotry,” “Hate is Easy, Love Takes Courage,” and similar sentiments.
The walk was organized by Scott Milnor of Weston and Susan Cutler of Wilton in response to recent events that included Nazi swastika graffiti found in a bathroom at Middlebrook School, a note that said “Jews will burn” stuck on a sixth grader’s locker, and damage to a building on the grounds of the Hindu temple.
Milnor, his wife, Marcela Penaranda, and his brother, Arthur Milnor, earlier in the day attended the Veterans Day parade and ceremony, carrying signs thanking Wilton vets for their service.
Afterwards he told The Bulletin, “Part of what we’re going to do this afternoon is based on what the veterans enable us to do, to march.”
Referring to the sign his brother was holding, which said, “Thank you veterans for fighting for our freedoms,” he said, “gives us the freedom to express, in this case through a walk or a march, the feelings we have about some of the events going on locally.”
“This is not a general political march,” he emphasized. “It is a walk or a march based on the recent events … that have taken place here. The events related to bigotry, intolerance, hate acts and so on. That’s the reason we’re marching, to try and bring some additional attention to those issues.”
Milnor was joined in his sentiments by those The Bulletin spoke to as they walked into town.
Michelle Beyman, a 15-year resident of Wilton, said her family is Jewish. “When I heard what had happened I was, of course, very upset.” It reminded her of an episode one of her children experienced shortly after they moved here. “This is important, not just for Jewish families but for other families and what happened at the temple as well,” she said.
Natalia White, also of Wilton, said the reason for her marching “is to spread the fact that Wilton is all about love and caring and kindness and I just wanted to make sure I was here to represent that.”
While passing motorists honked their horns in support, Martine Kessler of Wilton, said she was “hoping to promote some of the positive values that are very present in this town. Basically overload the positive rather than the negative that’s been happening … I think the town’s taking the acts very, very seriously and responding to them and we should never minimize but at the same time we should promote our shared values, not just the ones we’re against.”
She said she was pleasantly surprised so many people turned out for the march.
It wasn’t just Wiltonians marching. Nancy Nagle and her husband Stefan came down from Boston to support walk organizer Milnor, who is her brother.
“We read about the incidents here in Wilton and they drew our attention so we thought it might be important to show our support not just for her brother Scott but also for the idea that kind of activity shouldn’t happen anywhere and draws the attention of people outside of Wilton,” Stefan said.
Twenty-eight-year resident Larry Slavin said he and those he was marching with were there because “we feel that what is going on in Wilton in terms of the hateful activity and rhetoric is destructive and we’re marching against that. No tolerance for intolerance.”
Dana Gips, a Wilton resident of 21 years marched “in support of equality for everyone in town. … it’s really important to show that love wins and hate loses, and all over the country as well. She has a son in the high school where those “events were felt deeply.”
Carrying a banner identifying themselves were members of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Other members of the order, too frail to join the walk, offered support from the sidelines.
Co-organizer Susan Cutler said she was there to “stand up and show our community does not tolerate bigotry and we want to celebrate diversity and celebrate and respect the individual.” She represented both herself as a citizen of the town and as a representative of the Wilton Jewish Center.
“I’m delighted to see how much more diverse we’ve become since I moved here 30 years ago. I think it’s really enriched the experience of living in this town and I hope to see more and more of it.”
After making their way to the Town Green, the crowd gathered and joined in a final chant of “Stand up, speak out, come together against hate.”