In a gesture of solidarity with the people of Ukraine, dozens of Palo Alto residents gathered Tuesday night in a College Terrace park for a candlelight vigil where they offered words of support and prayers for peace.
More than 50 people attended the event at Werry Park, which included neighborhood residents, various faith leaders and people from other areas of Palo Alto.
Mary Bartholomay, who organized the event, recalled prior movements in support of nonviolence and former President Barack Obama's speech in accepting the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009, where he talked about the gradual evolution of institutions around the world of peace. She acknowledged, however, that the message can only go so far when a nation is besieged by an invading force and that she is not feeling particularly nonviolent as she watches Russian troops advance on Ukraine.
"I know the principles of nonviolence are not going to stop a 17-mile convoy of Russian trucks," Bartholomay said. "And there are realities that have to be faced."
James Cook, president of the College Terrace Residents Association, said it's important during a time of trauma for people to come together and "show each other that we still believe in peace and still believe in love."
"There are things in today's world, especially in today's pandemic, where you can feel alone and helpless," Cook said. "Imagine what it would be like to have that life upturned by someone invading your country, killing your friends and family."
Irina Cross, a native of St. Petersburg, Russia, said she was deeply ashamed by the war being caused by Russian President Vladimir Putin, for whom she said she has nothing but hatred. She also said she was ashamed of politicians who have yet to stop all payments of Russian oil and gas.
"That's where Putin gets his money. That's what I'm ashamed of," Cross said.
The war, which began on Feb. 24, has already shifted the geopolitical order, with European nations joining the United States in imposing heavy economic sanctions against Russia and offering arms and financial assistance to Ukraine; tech companies cutting off business with Russia; and nations around the world launching initiatives to seize the assets of pro-Putin oligarchs. U.S. President Joe Biden highlighted these efforts in his "State of the Union" address on Tuesday, where he pledged to close off American air space to all Russian flights and to assemble a task force in the U.S. Department of Justice to focus on crimes of Russian oligarchs.
"We are joining with our European allies to find and seize your yachts, your luxury apartments, and your private jets," Biden said. "We are coming for your ill-begotten gains."