Brian Watson, organizer of the Kitsap Builds Bridges, Not Walls vigil, hopes the entire length of the Manette Bridge will be filled with “people joined by mass celebration of diversity” from 1-3 p.m. Feb. 25. Michelle Beahm / Kitsap News Group

Kitsap Builds Bridges, Not Walls: A vigil to show diversity support in our own community

BREMERTON — Locals Brian Watson and Sally Jo Martine want the Kitsap community to gather together on Feb. 25 to build a symbolic human bridge.

“Bridges have a lot of symbolic meaning in our culture throughout history,” said Watson, a long-time member of the Kitsap Ground Zero Center for Nonviolent Action. “We talk about things like bridges to the future, bridges of hope, building bridges of peace, bridges of prosperity. Bridges have a lot of connotations that are positive and forward-looking and are about inclusion and reaching across borders … to get in contact with what’s on the other side.”

“Kitsap Builds Bridges, Not Walls” is a vigil of solidarity and justice, meant for the community to demonstrate “both to our elected officials and each other the collective opposition we hold for the hatred, fear and divisiveness that has been unleashed nationwide in recent days, weeks and months,” according to the event post on Facebook. The vigil will be from 1-3 p.m., Feb. 25, on the Manette Bridge in Bremerton.

Watson first conceived of the idea to build this human bridge not long after Donald Trump was elected president.

“It’s a way for people in Kitsap County to show that we do not accept the hatred, the fear, the racism, the intolerance that Trump and a lot of republicans are trying to get us to agree with,” Watson said. “We want a community that respects all people, regardless of where they come from or their circumstances in life. We feel that it’s important to show that kind of support right here in our community.”

It took him a while to decide to organize it, however.

“I’ve been thinking about this for a few months now, and finally, I just decided, it’s time to actually do this, see if anybody else feels the same way I do,” Watson said. “I’m very heartened to see that yes, there are a lot of people who feel the same way I do, and we want to literally put our bodies on the bridge to make a human bridge that says we want bridges, not walls.”

Martine met Watson at a recent gathering of concerned citizens, she said, where she first heard about his idea for the bridge vigil.

“I’ve been hungry for some form of action locally,” Martine said. “I think these are really critical times, and they’re deeply impacting friends and neighbors and members of our national community. I think that this event spoke to me as an opportunity to stand together in a really meaningful way.”

Martine said she feels the “trouble we’re witnessing today” is something people in marginalized communities have witnessed for a long time; now, she said more and more people are becoming aware of the “wrecking ball for our democracy.”

“Many of us are taking up the calls to resist, and this vigil is an accompanying call for love, a call to join together and experience our deep inner connection, especially at a local level,” Martine said. “It’s a call to nourish and nurture and create communities that are safe and healthy for each and every one of us.”

Martine has been helping spread the word about the event, and said she’s informed local churches, the Islamic Center, Kitsap Immigration Assistance Center, the YMCA and more.

“I can’t go to Seattle every time there’s a vigil or a rally — I want to — but I think we need to start building those kinds of connections here locally,” Martine said.

Watson said his goal for this vigil is to “get enough people to span the bridge from shore to shore to show a massive outpouring of support for Muslims, refugees and immigrants in our community.” He added that if not that many people show up, “that’s okay, too.”

“Any amount of support is important to show,” he said.

Watson said that the online posts have received a good response and that he expects the vigil to be a time for people to “show their concerns over policies that the Trump White House has been issuing,” as well as “a time of celebration for all the diversity that is within our community.”

“We want a community of inclusion, not exclusion. We want a community of openness, rather than fear, and we want a community that refuses to accept the scapegoating of anyone.”

For more information about the “Kitsap Builds Bridges, Not Walls” vigil, visit bit.ly/2ltcoaP or goo.gl/69p2MH.

Michelle Beahm is a reporter for the Central Kitsap Reporter and Bremerton Patriot. She can be reached at mbeahm@soundpublishing.com.

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