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Love walk packs downtown Grass Valley (VIDEO)

At least 1,000 people — ranging from babies in arms to seniors in wheelchairs — showed up to show a local family, and each other, the power of community.

Toting signs that proclaimed “No to intolerance, yes to diversity” and “Do not be silent Fight hate,” and chanting “We are together! We are together!” the crowd flashed peace signs during a “love walk” organized via social media after Jamal Walker, the general manager of Summer Thyme’s Bakery, took to Facebook to express his sadness over a racist incident involving his son, Imani.

Jamal Walker said the overwhelming turnout of support was the real face of the community, saying, “It’s the truth that matters — and we’re seeing the truth.”

He repeatedly told well-wishers that he knew the community stood behind him — but that Imani needed to see that.

Surrounded by friends, Imani seemed to have gotten that message loud and clear.

“It definitely changed my whole view on this community,” he said. “I feel that I’m meant to be here. I never felt like I was part of the community before today.”

According to Jamal Walker, on Tuesday afternoon Imani was walking down Mill Street in Grass Valley when a black car began to follow him. The three male occupants of the vehicle then began to harass Imani, yelling racial epithets while slowly driving next to him as he continued to walk down Mill Street and turned onto Main Street.

Walker posted a video about the incident that had gotten more than 34,000 views by Friday afternoon.

The video drew widespread support from the local community, and Grass Valley police officers visited Walker at his work Wednesday, to follow up on the incident.

“We are taking it seriously — it’s under investigation,” said Grass Valley Police Lt. Joe Matteoni; witnesses to the incident are urged to contact the police department.

Walker, who is also co-founder of Creating Communities Beyond Bias, a local group that holds events and workshops to tackle racial prejudice and bias, said the event on Friday was not intended to be a rally or protest.

“We’re going to do a love walk down Mill Street for my son,” Walker said Thursday. “It’s a time to just love one another, and show our support for people of color in this community. So bring your love (and) your hugs and leave your politics at home.”

The initial impulse to organize the “love walk” came from Todd Arvidson, who posted a request on Facebook for people to join him at 5 p.m. Friday in front of the Del Oro Theater in support of the Walker family. The idea quickly germinated.

“If it wasn’t me, it would have been somebody else,” Arvidson said of the impromptu demonstration of solidarity.

“Being a father myself, and seeing (Jamal’s) anger and sadness, I wanted to do something instead of just talking (and posting) about it,” Arvidson added. “It’s important to let this young man know there’s more people who would walk with him, instead of against him.”

After the march down Mill Street and up Main Street, Jamal Walker stood in front of the Del Oro as walkers stopped every few seconds to hug him and offer words of support.

“I thought racism had died down, but obviously it hasn’t,” said Bridget Monahan, who teaches at Bear River High School and who carried a sign made by one of her former students, Samantha Vivo. “I just wanted to … show that our town isn’t like that, that we accept everybody.”

Reporter Liz Kellar can be reached at 530-477-4236 or by email at lkellar@hotmail.com. Ivan Natividad contributed to this story.

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