As President Donald Trump cast doubt on election results even before all the votes had been tabulated, faith leaders and nonprofits gathered at San Jose City Hall to promote a complete count and a peaceful presidential transition.
Scott Myers-Lipton, a sociology professor at San Jose State University and a member of Protect Our Community, said the faith community was there to provide a de-escalation, nonviolent presence to ensure post-election gatherings were peaceful. Some stores and offices downtown boarded up in anticipation of protests following the election.
“We believe in democracy. We believe that every vote counts and we believe in a peaceful transition, whoever wins,” Myers-Lipton said.
The coalition of nonprofits and faith leaders was formed in response to Trump questioning the validity of the election.
“When the president said, ‘Stop all voting,’ voting had stopped,” Myers-Lipton said. “What he meant was stop all counting and that’s contrary to the democratic principle that all votes count. What we’re doing here today is in direct response.”
Myers-Lipton reached out to the Silicon Valley Faith Leaders Collaborative whose members told him they would never let the police violence which happened during the Black Lives Matter protests in San Jose to happen again. He said some said they would “put their bodies on the line to stop it.”
They planned to do the same the day after the election and into the evening, joining with the Gandhi Peace Ambassadors, other faith leaders and nonprofits to promote nonviolence.
Rev. Steve Pinkston, of Maranatha Christian Center, described the coalition as a group of interfaith, diverse people pledged to support the peaceful election process.
“Every member of our society should be valued and counted,” Pinkston said. “We’re pushing for love. We’re pushing for compassion for all.”
Pinkston also said the coalition supported the democratic process and condemned tyranny.
“We demand all legitimate votes be counted,” Pinkston said. “We call for justice.”
Sameena Usman, government relations coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said those present want to keep their communities safe and “stand up for democracy and justice.”
“People spent thousands of hours phone banking, precinct walking, having candidate forums … information forums to educate community members about this election. So, to think that every single vote might not potentially be counted? That is completely unacceptable,” Usman said.
She urged people to come to a prayer vigil that night to stand up for those who did not have a voice or a vote, such as kids in cages and families separated due to immigration policy.
Diane Fisher, director of the Jewish Community Relations Council, looked to the future.
“We’re on the precipice of reshaping our democracy, of creating policies and leadership that truly reflect our multiracial and multicultural population,” Fisher said. “This is the time to continue pushing forward to fix our climate, become anti-racist and leave our children a better world.”
Darcie Green, a member of Anti-Racist San Jose, said voter suppression, which is at the forefront of this election, is rooted in racism.
“There is a very real attempt by our current president to stop every vote from being counted,” Green said. “We have already heard the attempt to call the election before all legally cast ballots have been counted. There are efforts to suppress the votes of people of color across this country. Racial justice is the solution. In the Latino community, we have been disenfranchised for a very long time and now is the time to say, ‘Enough!’”
Rabbi Dana Magat, of Temple Emanu-El, said the coalition is trying to create a safe place at City Hall for all those who wanted to express themselves.
“Our hope is to be nonviolent… not to see what happened a few months ago in our city,” he said, “and all points of view are welcome. There’s so much division. Our call is for unity. We want to see a United States again.”
The event included peace and de-escalation training, cultural programming and small-group discussion.
Rev. Ray Montgomery, director of People Acting in Community Together, decried the administration’s “intolerant platform to follow hate,” dividing the nation.
“We continue to demand justice and equity for all,” Montgomery said. “Embrace the nonviolent principles that will lead us to a place of healing in Santa Clara County.”
Contact Lorraine Gabbert at [email protected]