Kent church hosts demonstration condemning insurrection

Kent City Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer Bish holds a sign during the protest organized by the United Universalist Church of Kent on Sunday condemning the Jan. 6 insurrection. Michael Indriolo/The Portager
Kent City Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer Bish holds a sign during the protest organized by the United Universalist Church of Kent on Sunday condemning the Jan. 6 insurrection. Michael Indriolo/The Portager

Kent church hosts demonstration condemning insurrection

Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent organized the peaceful demonstration in downtown Kent

Demonstrators in downtown Kent spoke out Sunday against the insurrection on Capitol Hill during a peaceful protest organized by the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent.

The roughly 20 demonstrators, mostly Kent residents, waved flags and raised signs condemning Wednesday’s violence and calling for President Donald Trump’s removal from office. Some cars driving past the demonstration on the corner of Franklin Avenue and West Main Street honked horns in support while a few passersby shouted in opposition to the demonstration.

“We feel that it is our responsibility, our moral responsibility, to be active citizens and to promote the shared ideals of universal liberty and equality,” said Vivien Sandlund, the Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent’s social justice coordinator. “And part of that is voting rights. That’s really important.”

Kent City Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer Bish holds a sign during the protest organized by the United Universalist Church of Kent on Sunday condemning the Jan. 6 insurrection. Michael Indriolo/The Portager

Kent City Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer Bish joined the demonstration with a sign that read simply, “Hold our leaders accountable.” At both the county and national levels, she said, we need truth and reconciliation.

“People need to say, ‘I was wrong,’” she said. “Maybe they didn’t know. I want to give people the benefit of the doubt that people have been in echo chambers, and maybe they just really didn’t know. That’s why it’s really incumbent on leaders to come forward and tell the truth, and shout down the lies.”

Kent City Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer Bish holds a sign during the protest organized by the United Universalist Church of Kent on Sunday condemning the Jan. 6 insurrection. Michael Indriolo/The Portager

Support for the democratic process and the inherent worth of every person have been baked into Unitarian Universalist practice since the church’s inception in the 1960s. Rather than uniting under religious doctrine, the church seeks to foster an inclusive spiritual environment, as described in its seven principles. Members of the church’s Kent branch felt compelled to peacefully demonstrate against the Trump supporters whose violent opposition to President-Elect Joe Biden’s congressional certification violated the church’s ideological pillars.

Though healing the country will take a long time, Sandlund said our local community can do its part by opening up more dialogue to address the growing divide between those in different political camps. The Unitarian Universalist Church of Kent is building a new gathering space for those kinds of dialogues and other community activities, which will open when the pandemic permits.

“We really need to have a conversation in this community about: What kind of community do we want to live in?” said Renee Ruchotzke, a local community minister from the Unitarian Universalist Association. “Do we want to live in a community where people who are fear mongers are put in charge? Or do we want to live in a community where people who care about one another serve one another in elected positions?”

Kent City Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer Bish holds a sign during the protest organized by the United Universalist Church of Kent on Sunday condemning the Jan. 6 insurrection. Michael Indriolo/The Portager

Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article spelled Vivien Sandlund’s name incorrectly.

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Michael Indriolo is a visual journalist based in Kent. He is a contributor at The Portager covering a range of topics, including local government and community.