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Belmont stands in solidarity for all

BAt the Stand Up for Safety event in Belmont, people joined hands around Clay Pit Pond to symbolize support for minorities targeted in hate crimes. Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

BELMONT — After a divisive national election tinged with acts of hate and intolerance, hundreds united around an icy pond Saturday, joining hands with strangers, friends, and neighbors in a show of interfaith solidarity.

“It’s the power of standing shoulder to shoulder,” said Donna Ruvolo, cochairwoman of the Stand Up For Safety event, which aimed to gather enough people to complete a circle around Clay Pit Pond.

The demonstration symbolized the support Belmont residents wish to provide minorities targeted in hate crimes after the election, Ruvolo said.

“We’re looking at a situation now where people, even in Massachusetts, aren’t feeling safe,” she said. “They’re discouraged. We feel like, as a community, we can stand together and say, ‘These are our values.’ ”

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Winter’s first major snowfall added a touch of holiday splendor as people bundled in colorful winter gear stretched around the pond near Belmont High School. Breaking from formation, a red-cheeked child laughed and tossed a snowball.

The light moment showed the community spirit and solidarity that followed a speaking program in the school cafeteria.

The high school’s improv troupe performed a skit targeting harassment, urging teenagers to respect one another.

“We need to stop attacking each other when we disagree, and we need to start communicating and work through these kind of political differences together,” said Maerose Pepe, a member of the troupe who is a senior.

Local and state officials stood before a wall-sized portrait of Nelson Mandela, the late South African anti-apartheid revolutionary.

“Belmont is a safe and welcoming community,” Selectmen Chairman Mark Paolillo said, reading a proclamation from the board. “Its citizens stand in solidarity against injustice and hate.”

The proclamation cited fair housing, justice in policing, and equal access to education as the town’s shared values.

Ruvolo acknowledged a veterans group that stood raising money to build a new memorial near the school.

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“What they fought for is what we’re trying to preserve in the community,” Ruvolo said, to loud applause from the crowd.

Mohiuddin Kahn, 45, who worships at the Islamic Center of Wayland, which recently received a hate letter, delivered a stirring rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner.”

Pulling a lyric sheet and a pitch-pipe from his pocket, he said, “There are two things I understand you cannot do, one is sing it in the wrong key, another is forget the words.”

He pointed to an American flag, draped in the cafeteria. The crowd, right hands raised to their hearts, turned to face the flag.

Kahn didn’t miss a note.


Amanda Burke can be reached at amanda.burke@globe.com.