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Venice rally celebrates diversity as nation struggles with race and politics

Hundreds gather in Venice to celebrate diversity

Dozens of people turned out Saturday for a march and rally in Venice to celebrate diversity and unity following a week of nationwide conflict over racial equality.

The peaceful event was one of many taking place around the country as activists push to spread often-dueling messages.

The Venice march began at 11 a.m. at the Venice boardwalk and headed to the Google building, followed by a rally until 3 p.m.

“This is a time where fear cannot keep us inside protecting ourselves,” organizers said in a statement. “Our only safety is standing strong against a culture of hate.”

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Marches and rallies are taking place across the country in the wake of racially charged violence a week ago in Charlottesville, Va. Far-right activists — including white supremacists — clashed with counter-demonstrators, resulting in the death of one woman.

Megan Massa, 25, a graduate student at UCLA, was among the more than 200 people who attended the rally in Venice.

“With the events of last week in Charlottesville, my relationship to the social justice movement has changed,” she said. Massa said she used to consider herself an ally of the movement, rather than a participant.

“But as a member of an ethnically Jewish community,” she said, “I realized it’s me as well.”

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Ashley Lukashevsky, 24, a freelance political illustrator, was also among the demonstrators.

“Charlottesville woke everyone up a little bit more,” she said. “[President] Trump is giving credence to all of these ideas, and people with intolerance and bigotry in their hearts are really feeling like they can voice their opinions in a really big way.”

As the marchers made their way along the mile-long route, they chanted a cry taken up elsewhere in the country in recent days: “No Nazis! No KKK! No fascist USA!”

Felix Rodriguez, 27, a researcher at UC Irvine, said his father had expressed concerns for his safety after the Charlottesville violence.

“But like I told him, black people and people of color are risking their lives every day just by being who they are,” Rodriguez said. “It would be hypocritical of me not to put my life on the line for this perceived threat of the alt-right.”

Meanwhile, an anti-racism rally was held in Laguna Beach on Saturday, drawing about 300 people. Brittany DeArmond, one of the demonstrators, stood silently on the grass holding a sign that read, “Can’t we all just get along?”

She said she had traveled from Irvine for the rally because she felt powerless last week when a woman was killed while protesting the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville.

“We should all be treated fairly,” DeArmond said, “not based on what we look like. All people have hurt and all people have happiness.”

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The demonstration came a day before an anti-immigration rally scheduled in the Orange County city.

Activists are expected to gather Sunday to draw attention to crimes committed by immigrants who are in the country illegally. The group also will protest the cheap labor provided by immigrants, which they say drives down wages for U.S. citizens.

anna.phillips@latimes.com

Lopez is a contributor to Times Community News.

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UPDATES:

2:25 p.m.: This article was updated with additional comments from rally participants.

12:30 p.m.: This article was updated with details of the rally and comments from participants.

This article was originally posted at 10:45 a.m.


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