Bellevue neighbors rally as a welcoming community

More than 100 people rallied against hate on Aug. 5 in response to white supremacist fliers that recently resurfaced in Bellevue.

Locals waved signs and called for kindness outside Crossroads Bellevue, gathering honks and cheers in support of a welcoming community.

“I was so upset [when I learned about the fliers] I wanted to go and see them right away,” said a Bellevue mother who requested she and her daughter remain anonymous. “I thought maybe there were a couple, but there really were these fliers all up and down 156th Avenue.”

The rally was organized in response to white supremacist posters promoting a movement that centers on a slogan from Nazi ideology: “Blood and soil.”

Several residents who live nearby tore down dozens of the fliers between Crossroads and the St. Louise Church the morning after they were posted on July 29. Despite the swift action, the posters disturbed community members.

“At one point, I asked my daughter, ‘Doesn’t it feel good that we’re taking these down?’ and she said ‘Yeah, it feels good, but I’m really sad that I have to do this,’” said the local mother, who comes from an immigrant background. “That made me feel horrible because I did think that growing up, things would get better and my kids wouldn’t have to deal with the racism or certain things that I dealt with.”

The woman and her daughter attended the rally and reached out to local media in an attempt to raise awareness.

“[My daughter] keeps telling me that she wants to spread the word and our community needs to know this is happening and stand together,” she said. “To some extent she’s worried that some people may see these posters and actually fall for what some of the statements are (saying).”

The anti-hate rally was planned by another local neighbor, Rebecca Schaechter, who works for the Anti-Defamation League in Bellevue. Schaechter created a private Facebook page for her friends and neighbors to organize an event, which quickly grew to include more than 700 people.

The rally also gained attention from local government officials who attended the event, including the Bellevue school board president My-Linh Thai, state Sen. Patty Kuderer, Bellevue deputy mayor Lynne Robinson, Bellevue City Council member Janice Zahn and acting police chief Patrick Arpin.

“It started out small, like ‘Let’s get some friends together and make a show that this isn’t who we are in Bellevue,’” Schaechter said. “It definitely grew bigger than I thought, I was thrilled…It was a wonderful experience and I think we accomplished our goal, which was to let people know in the neighborhood that immigrants are welcome in Bellevue. Diversity is welcome in Bellevue and this is who we are.”

The Eastside Refugee and Immigrant Coalition also came out in support of the event and even reached out to Schaechter, inviting her to rally at upcoming Eastside Welcoming Week events that will take place from Sept. 14-23 throughout the Eastside.

“It was so great to meet so many people and that so many people cared and came out for that,” said the Bellevue mother and daughter. “We were really touched.”