Dozens of people from a variety of cultural and religious backgrounds gathered Tuesday night to call attention to what they see as a growing atmosphere of hatred in America.
Richard Mitchell, spokesman for the Central Kentucky Council for Peace and Justice, which organized the anti-hate candlelight vigil in front of the Fayette County Circuit Courthouse, said recent cases such as those of Trayvon Martin and Tyler Clementi point to increasing "intolerance ... fear, prejudice and sometimes hate."
Clementi, 18, was a Rutgers University student who jumped off a bridge in September 2010 after his roommate used a live webcam — and then tweeted about it — to spy on Clementi during two homosexual encounters in their room. In February, Martin, an unarmed, black 17-year-old, was killed during a confrontation with a neighborhood watch volunteer while Martin was walking in a gated community in Sanford, Fla.
Mitchell said he recently was searching online regarding those cases, as well as that of Shaima Alawadi, an Iraqi woman found beaten to death in her California home last month.
"For every news story about them, you'd pick up essentially a hate site," he said.
Mitchell said Muslim women who wear hijabs, young black men in hoodies, and gay and lesbians should not have to worry about their safety.
Basoos Al-Munshi of Lexington attended the vigil with her sons, Aseel Shalash, 8, and Shakir Shalash, 5.
"I know how it feels ... for people to look at you different," she said. "They give you that look, and you're like, 'What did I do?'"
Representatives of the Muslim, black, gay and lesbian, and Jewish communities spoke at the event.
"We're missing out on an opportunity to know each other," said Assia Amry. "Let us embrace each other and learn."
Dr. Nadia Rasheed said she thinks there is more "Islamophobia" in the United States now than there was immediately after the 9/11 attacks.
"Things are getting worse," she said. "We have to stand hand in hand and say, 'I don't accept this. ... We are the people. This is our land, and we want it back.'"
Allie Huddleston, speaking on behalf of the gay and lesbian community, recounted an incident during the recent celebrations surrounding the NCAA men's basketball tournament.
She said she was at Euclid and Woodland avenues during a victory celebration when a large group of people began chanting "smear the queer."
"What they were really saying was that they wanted to kill me," she said. "A time of celebration for me quickly turned into a moment of fear.
"It's not going to get better soon. It needs to get better now."