In Montclair, protests, calls for peace, efforts to aid victims of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine
Over the last several days, Montclair residents, civic and faith leaders, business owners and others have been making their appeals for peace in Ukraine, making known their protest of Russia's invasion and doing what they can to help those suffering through the attack.
Montclair helps refugees
As attacks on Ukraine increased and more residents fled the country, Councilman Peter Yacobellis started a Facebook fundraiser for Ukrainian refugees. Money raised goes to the International Rescue Committee.
Every $500 covers the cost of one mobile medical unit to be set up to treat refugees as they arrive in Poland, Romania, Hungary and Slovakia. The mission of the Rescue Committee is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.
As of Wednesday evening, 268 area residents had donated nearly $17,000.
“Your contribution will make an impact, whether you donate $5 or $500. Facebook pays all the processing fees for you, so 100% of your donation goes directly to the nonprofit,” Yacobellis wrote on Facebook.
Day of protest
Tim Witzig spent most of his day on Sunday, Feb. 27, holding up a sign in protest of the Lukoil station on the corner of Valley Road and Lorraine Avenue.
Witzig’s sign read: “Lukoil = Putin.”
He feels that “people should know where their money is going” when they purchase gas from Lukoil.
“I'm out here because I want to remind people that we have Russian-owned businesses in our neighborhood. And this is one of the big ones. ...We can maybe take our energy dollars somewhere else, maybe to companies that don’t funnel money to [Russian President] Vladimir Putin,” Witzig said.
Some motorists honked in support as they drove by.
Energy giant Lukoil Oil Co. is based in Russia, though individual stations are locally owned franchisees, CNN reports. Newark Wednesday passed a resolution suspending the business licenses of local Lukoil stations in that city, according to NBC New York.
Frank Maiocco, Witzig’s partner, said most of the people they met throughout the day were supportive. But one woman wasn’t and shouted: “That's the stupidest sign I’ve ever seen. You don’t know where the gas is coming from.”
Witzig said: “I’ve grown up here. I’ve gone to school here. And this was not always a Russian oil company. This was a Mobile station.”
'We don't need a war'
The Wine Guys carried one kind of Russian vodka, and they threw it in the garbage Friday, according to manager Ricardo Patel.
"We need peace, we don't need a war," Patel said. "[Putin] is out of his mind. He doesn't care about normal people."
A call for peace
Clergy, Montclair-area civic leaders and residents alike gathered at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair on the evening of Thursday, Feb. 24, in a shared hope for peace in Ukraine, after Russia’s invasion of the country began. A bout 100 people attended the vigil, also livestreamed on the Unitarian Universalist Congregation’s Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Gunta Alexander, who originally comes from Latvia, said she attended because “my little country could be in danger.”
The vigil began indoors at the congregation’s building before moving outside with candles.
“Russia’s invasion of Ukraine reminds us that peace, justice and human rights are linked and interdependent,” Bruce Knotts, the director of the Unitarian Universalist Office at the United Nations, said last week. His message was shared as part of the Montclair congregation’s social media promotion of the event.
“The soaring words in the preamble of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights offer that ‘Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.’”
Photos by Kate Albright. Video above from the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at Montclair's Facebook page.
This post has been updated to correctly quote Frank Maiocco saying a woman shouted at him and Tim Witzig, not a man.