One woman said the No Hate Rally at Vander Veer Botanical Park in Davenport reminded her of another Quad-City march — outside the Rock Island Arsenal, against the Vietnam War, some 50 years ago.
"I was 16 years old at that time," said Valerie Kirkpatrick Brekke of Davenport. "I'm here today for my grandbabies. I don't want them growing up in a world of hate."
Brekke was among 700 to 800 people who turned out Wednesday for the anti-hate event that was scheduled several days before violence broke out last weekend in Virginia during rallies first organized by white nationalists.
Rallygoers chanted "No hate!" as they walked the sidewalks around Vander Veer, drawing considerable reaction from vehicles passing on Harrison and Brady streets and Central Park Avenue. Many wore messages on their shirts and on handmade posters, including, simply, "Be Kind" to more political stances, such as, "Sorry About (Conservative Congressman) Steve King."
Word of the rally traveled for several days on Facebook, but social media wasn't the only messenger.
"At church, the pastor said something about Menards getting (white nationalist) flyers, and then this event was mentioned," said Susan Senn, an organist for Grace Lutheran Church and Faith United Church of Christ, both in Davenport. "I went to the march on Sunday, too. People hardly spoke, just held their signs.
"Most cars were honking in support. We were all surprised. It's a good memory to have."
At times during the half-hour march around Vander Veer, the calls for peace and unity were drowned out by honking vehicles. While most gave a thumbs up or peace sign, not everyone offered encouragement.
When a male driver shot his middle finger at the crowd, a woman said to the toddler she was pushing in a stroller, "See? We're number one."
A group of four men counterprotested the rally, and they were escorted by police to an area across Lombard Street, away from the park. One man wore a "Trump is my president" T-shirt while another carried a sign, reading, "Hate speech is still free speech get over it."
Some rallygoers approached the men, but police reported no violence between the groups.
"Don't engage with counterprotesters," the Rev. Richard Hendricks had warned the crowd. "Police will take care of them ... because we have a permit."
At least a half-dozen Davenport police officers were among the crowd, along with many members of Quad-City clergy, and at least one drone flew overhead.
"I'm here, because I'm supporting us as being one — unity," said Tawunya Hicks of New Water Family Life Center, Davenport. "I believe perfect love casts out all hate.
"I'm not afraid to be righteous, to do the right thing. Under our skin, we're all one."
Then Hicks, an African-American, said something that surprised me: "White supremacists are people, too. They've just been taught wrong. Somebody taught them wrong. We need to teach a different route."
In addressing the crowd, the recently retired Rabbi Henry Karp said, "We are thrilled you all feel the same need we do."
He said One Human Family QC, which organized the rally, was founded in November by citizens concerned about "the ever-growing tempest of hate ... fueled by rhetoric of the presidential election."
Hendricks further engaged the crowd when he addressed the seemingly recent surge of Nazi sentiment in the U.S., saying, "We don't want to have to fight them again."
As a string of drivers honked while passing the hundreds of people lining Brady Street, including a CitiBus, a dump truck and a Frito-Lay truck, Sara Meyer of Bettendorf stood smiling.
"It's absolutely fantastic," she said. "It's a big crowd, but it needs to be three times this size. The honking and waving is amazing, too. This really brings strangers together."
She was right.
While I haven't attended every rally or demonstration in the Quad-Cities, I have attended many. I do not recall seeing a group the size of the one at Vander Veer since the fairly last-minute gathering we had in LeClaire Park after Sept. 11, 2001.
I saw people of many races — from young parents to retired businessmen. Despite a light rain, every person I encountered was cheerful and pleasant. They did not call for the president's impeachment, nor did they antagonize the differing sentiments that drew them together.
When I left the newsroom, I hadn't a solid idea of what to expect. My prevailing thought was this: I hope I'm not naive to think the Quad-Cities will not have a crowd of white supremacists.
What a relief.