The violent rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, feels like dejavu for one small town in Massachusetts, who had a white supremacist group gather inside their library in 2002.
The group, known then as the Church of the Creator, reserved a public meeting space in the Lucius Beebe Memorial Library in Wakefield. Their racist chants, Nazi salutes and messages of hate are remembered by all who were there to witness it.
“Everyone wondered why Wakefield,” library director Catherine McDonald recalled. “It came down to location. We’re right off of 128. It’s easy to get in and out.”
McDonald said the library could not refuse the group because it is a public building. However, the gathering was met with plenty of protesters and police.
“Of course your first thought is public safety,” Wakefield Town Administrator Stephen Maio said. “We wanted to make sure everyone was safe.”
Maio, who was on the Board of Selectman in Wakefield at the time, says the town was quick to organize a peace vigil at a nearby church while the gathering happened. He says it helped de-escalate the situation and gave the the town a chance to take a stance against the hate.
“We wanted to do something that celebrates who we are and not let some group come in and spew their message and define us,” Maio said.
The decisions made by town officials then are some many in Wakefield hope the country will learn from now.
“We’re still fighting this fight. It’s shocking,” Ann McGonigle Santos, a current member of the Board of Selectmen said. “And to not have a national leadership that is embracing the fight that our little town of Wakefield did in 2002 is also shocking.”
The group that came to Wakefield still exists, but they are now known as the Creativity Movement. They have not been back to the town since.