By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — The Gold Star family that sparked debate during the presidential campaign is at the heart of a call for unity in Baltimore County.

Wednesday night, Baltimore County is celebrated its diversity in light of a growing number of hate-related crimes in our region.

The “Call For Unity” rally, being held at Patriot Plaza in Towson, includesd a special guest: Khizr Khan, the father of a Muslim U.S. soldier killed in combat.

“We are grateful, I am humbled,” Khan said.

Khan caused a stir during the last presidential election and has been fighting against discrimination ever since. An effort, some say, that is sorely needed here in Maryland.

“Some of the leaders to gain their political place have been using divisiveness, have been using discrimination, threatening communities, that is totally un-American,” he said.

It’s been nearly a year since Khizr Khan took the stage at the Democratic National Convention and challenged then President-elect Donald Trump.

“You have sacrificed nothing and no one,” Khan said.

Trump’s response to the Gold Star father of a U.S. Army captain killed in combat, ignited a firestorm.

“I’ve had tremendous success,” Trump replied.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz, who was at the DNC, says the Trump administration is fueling fear.

“A woman told me that after the election, a rock was thrown through her windshield with a note that said, ‘Trump won. Go back home,'” Kamenetz said. “From his first day in office, President Trump released a reign of terror on the immigrant community in this country.”

“I think it’s ridiculous, but I think people are getting the message from the top that is showing them that hatred is OK,” Elizabeth Clifford said.

He also pointed to a growing number of hate-related crimes in our region. Kamenetz also proclaimed July 12 as “Unity Day” in Baltimore County.

In May, bananas tied with nooses were found hanging on the campus of American University.

Then, two teens were caught on surveillance video placing a noose at Crofton Middle School.

That was followed by the unprovoked murder of 23-year-old Bowie State University student, and ROTC member, Richard Collins III.

His accused killer, Sean Urbanski, was charged with first-degree murder.

All three incidents are being investigated as possible hate crimes.

That’s why Kamenetz invited Khan, along with community and religious leaders, to Baltimore County for a day of unity and against hate.

Organizers said Baltimore County is an ideal place for the rally because of its diversity. Leaders there said they hope to set an example for other parts of the state.

“This is an important opportunity to stand up for what we stand for,” Kamenetz said.

“The number of decent good people of this country I have met, I assure you, we are in good company,” Khan sad.

Khan also got a special citation for defending immigrants and the constitution Wednesday night.

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Ava-joye Burnett