Hundreds Turn Out to Rally Against ‘Cross Burning’ Hate

( [email protected] ) Mar 29, 2004 10:29 AM EST

ARLINGTON, Wash -- Hundreds marched in support of a pastor and his family after two suspects burned a cross in their front yard in northern Washington State, Saturday, March 27, 2004.

Pastor Jason Martin, a black Pentecostal pastor, awoke on Wednesday to find firefighters dousing the 3-foot-by-5-foot cross. Ninety percent of the population of Arlington, where Rev. Martin leads his 150 member church, is white. Blacks account for fewer than 2 percent of the city’s 11,713 residents.

Saturday’s rally showed the support of a diverse group of people – mainly students – who carried a banner quoting the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

"I'm overwhelmed. It's very humbling," he told the crowd. "Sometimes it takes difficult things to bring change."

Many carried signs that bore a single word — "acceptance."

"We just didn't think this happens anymore," said marcher Kari Fiorillo, who wept as she described the incident's affect on the community.

Prior to the rally, two 16 year old boys turned themselves in to police; Martin, in turn prayed for the boys and said he hopes to speak with the teenagers to tell them they are forgiven.

"We want to throw sticks and stones and cuss and all kinds of things when someone hurts us, but if we want to be good Christians, if we want to be a good community, I say send your enemy flowers," Martin said.