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'Call out racism' when you see it and hear it, Provo gathering told

PROVO — While a medical student, Dr. Kathie Allen's anatomy class studied cadavers of all races for nearly six months.

"It didn't matter if that person had once been a person of color or white person. The carotid artery was always found on the same place of the neck. The median nerve always crossed the wrist. What makes us family is the incredible sameness that lies just below the surface," said Allen, Democratic candidate for the 3rd Congressional District.

Allen was among a half-dozen speakers at a solidarity rally at Kiwanis Park in Provo Sunday night, which was in part a call to action and an opportunity to honor three people who died in connection with the Charlottesville, Virginia, protests on Aug. 12.

They included Heather Heyer, who was among people gathered to stand up against neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists making a show of force in Charlottesville when a car sped through the crowd.

The victims also included two Virginia State Police officers who died in a helicopter crash after the protests: trooper Berke M. M. Bates and Lt. H. Jay Cullen.

In addition to speeches that encouraged those gathered to speak up against racism and discrimination, the crowd joined in song and lit candles.

Kwaku El, representing BYU College Democrats, said bigotry flourishes when people who know it is wrong ignore it.

"So we can't just ignore it. Speak out and explain why it is wrong," he said.

Tomorrow's children are going to ask their parents - today's millennials - what they did in the face of festering racism and bigotry, he said.

"Our children are going to hear about this time period and ask you what you did," he said.

Tinesha Zandamela, who is running for the District 5 seat of the Provo City Council, urged the crowd of some 150 people to rise up against racist speech, including jokes.

"Call it out when you see it," she said. "You are working to end the normalization of racism. That's a big deal."

Zandamela also encouraged the audience to "constantly be willing to do some serious introspection."

Hunter Phillips, a candidate for a citywide seat on the Provo City Council, also addressed the crowd, although he admitted that after he and the country twice elected its first black president that he naively believed Americans had put racism and discrimination behind them.

"The blame for this gargantuan lie rests primarily, maybe wholly, with people who look like me and our inability to properly apologize and atone for the sins of the past," said Phillips, who is white.

Allen said there’s no place for Nazism in a country where there’s a such a "short sail between Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty.

While followers of the KKK and white nationalists have the right under the First Amendment to speak their peace, that constitutional freedom does not "force us to be discerning."

"That's our responsibility," Allen said.

For millennials to be the most powerful generation, "you have to own it," Allen told the crowd of mostly college-age students.

"Register for class. Register to vote," she said.