Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey is among the scheduled speakers at a 4 Freedoms Coalition event in Pittsfield on Sunday.
Four years ago, activists from around Berkshire County coalesced into the 4 Freedoms Coalition in response to the election of President Donald Trump.
“We focused on the fact that in these times particularly, the basic freedoms of our democracy are at stake and at issue," said Sherwood Guernsey. He's one of the group’s co-founders, as well as the co-founder of the Berkshire Democratic Brigades. On January 12th, the 4 Freedoms Coalition is holding its fourth annual march in the streets of Pittsfield, Massachusetts.
“We’re facing right now a very destabilized world and a destabilized democracy, so I urge people to come and help us stand up to protect the freedoms that Franklin Roosevelt so long ago articulated so well – freedom of speech, freedom of press, freedom from want, and freedom from fear," Guernsey told WAMC. "Needless to say, I think there are a lot of people who are in fear and feeling the destabilization around the country and around the world.”
Guernsey cites attacks and criticism of the press from the Trump administration as examples of freedom of the press being under assault.
“Freedom from fear – people are literally fearful, especially if you are an immigrant or you are a person of color," he said. "When we have a country where white supremacists are said to be good people, when we have immigrants put in cages, there’s reason for fear.”
For freedom of want, he pointed to the widening gap between those who benefit from a booming stock market while arguing that wages remain largely stagnant among the working class.
“Freedom of religion – need I say more?" asked Guernsey. "The fact is that of course if you are in anything but a Christian church, you have reason to be scared. The Jewish community, the Muslim community, everybody in certain religions have reason to be scared. We need to stand up and protect those rights and those people, and that’s what we’re all about.”
The march begins on the steps of City Hall on Allen Street, and continues to the Colonial Theatre less than half a mile away on East Street. There, a program of performers and speakers will begin at 2 p.m.
“Our focus with the speakers this year was for each one to have a primary focus on one of the four freedoms," said Colin Ovitsky, one of the 4 Freedoms Coalition’s volunteer organizers. “Imam Bilal Ansari from Williams College speaking on freedom of religion, Hawk Newsome from Black Lives Matter of Greater New York on freedom from fear, Logan Malik from Berkshire Environmental Action Team on freedom from want – which in a lot of cases is tied in to environmental and climate change concerns, Jenn Smith from The Berkshire Eagle on freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and then our keynote speaker will be Senator Ed Markey who I’m sure will touch on many of those topics.”
Democratic Pittsfield Mayor Linda Tyer is also scheduled to give remarks. Between each speaker, a local musical ensemble will perform.
“We’ve got the Kids 4 Harmony Elayne Bernstein Octet, which is a string octet," said Ovitsky. "We’ve got the Berkshire Hills Chorus which is a women’s chorus group. Sankofa, which is the step team from Williams College. Paul Green and Benny Kohn doing a Jewish jazz fusion performance, then Jason Ennis and Natalia Bernal with some Latin and Brazilian music, and we’re going to close with a singalong with Wes Buckley and Marisa Massery – local singer-songwriters.”
Organizers are expecting hundreds to attend the march and rally.
“One thing that’s really a strength of our community here in the Berkshires is that we have the ability as a relatively small community and a relatively close knit community in general that we have the ability to come together for moments like this to demonstrate solidarity and to work with each other to really inspire each other to fight for unity and equality for all of our neighbors,” Ovitsky told WAMC.
The 4th annual 4 Freedoms Coalition march begins at 1:30 p.m. in Pittsfield, Massachusetts Sunday.