Christine Stuart photo
Candlelight vigil in Bushnell Park (Christine Stuart photo)

Hundreds of residents from Hartford and beyond gathered in Bushnell Park Monday to celebrate Hartford and stand up against the violence and indifference that has plagued the Capitol City.

The beating of former deputy mayor Nick Carbone and the hit-and-run of 78-year-old Angel Arce Torres on Park Street dealt a swift blow to the city’s confidence, so Leadership Greater Hartford and city leaders wanted to hold an event to take it back.

“We are angry, but we’re not angry at our city,” Angel Arce, whose father was paralyzed in the hit-and-run, said Monday. “People in Hartford know there were people there that day that wanted to help.”

Arce said his father has been moved to a special care hospital in New Britain. He is still paralyzed from the neck down.

“Hartford we love you,” Arce wrote on the commitment board where residents were encouraged to write their feelings about Hartford.

“I will work to continue the spirit of this event long into the future,” Ted Carroll, director of Leadership Greater Hartford wrote on the board next to Arce.

Rev. Adam Soderberg of South Church said “I think it shows the number of people who believe in Hartford even when times are tough.” He said the hit-and-run was a wake up call to a lot of people.

Hartford Council Majority Leader rJo Winch, who attended the event with her granddaughter, said as she looked around at the crowd, “This is what Hartford’s really about.”

Rev. Cornell Lewis encouraged the crowd to become “change agents.” He said the community of Hartford is like growing an organism in a Petri dish, to help the city remain alive you have to get involved.

Mayor Eddie Perez said “this is the beginning.” He said it’s a celebration of all the great things the community is already doing. And it is also the starting point to talk about some “tough issues,” Hartford faces, he said.

One of the biggest issues Hartford faces is poverty, Perez said. He said 35 percent of the population in Hartford lives in poverty and the community needs to find ways to give them opportunities because with opportunity comes responsibility, and with responsibility comes a stake in the community.

Monday’s event, complete with candlelight vigil, was the start of a conversation that will continue on July 9 at the Charter Oak Community Center.

For more information on that event visit the Hartford Cares web site. For some great photos of the event checkout