‘We can never normalize that’: People come together for Unity Rally to stand against antisemitic messages

At least 100 people came together for the Unity Rally Thursday evening to stand against antisemitic messages.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A candlelight vigil for unity was held Thursday evening in response to recent antisemitic messages displayed across Jacksonville over the weekend.

At least 100 people showed up to James Weldon Johnson Park to promote unity in the community at the Unity Rally, organized by OneJax, which is a nonprofit organization that promotes diversity and inclusion at the University of North Florida.

The event is in response to recent messages that were seen on banners across an overpass on the Westside and projected on the side of TIAA Bank Field after the Georgia-Florida game and a downtown apartment building.

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The event began with a procession of faith leaders from a variety of religions. Speakers spoke out and people came together in prayer to denounce the hateful messages.

“I also think it’s part of a disturbing trend. Antisemitism has been with us for a long time,” said Pastor Kyle Reese, executive director for OneJax. “I find more and more speech that used to whisper in the shadows is being openly spoken, and we can never normalize that.

Rally organizers wanted to allow people -- specifically the Jewish community -- to have the chance to offer support for one another.

Megan McLemore attended the rally and said she was motivated to come out because she was “shocked and disturbed” by the messages.

“It’s a scary thing when people feel like they can display hate, so I felt like it was really important for our city to respond to that and say, ‘That is not who Jacksonville is,’” McLemore said.

About the Author:

Renee Beninate is a Florida native and award-winning reporter who joined the News4Jax team in June 2021.