Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Nature, and Politics

Jon Queally: White Supremacists demonstrate at U. of Virginia. Deadly violence ensues.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency Saturday as far-right groups and counter-protesters clashed on the streets of Charlottesville.

A vehicle plowed through a crowd of peaceful protesters in Charlottesville, Va. Saturday after police broke up violent clashes between far-right groups and counter-demonstrators.

At least one person died, and multiple people were injured in the collision, according to Charlottesville Police.

It was not immediately clear if the incident was deliberate, though one witness said the collision was “absolutely intentional,” according to The Washington Post’s Joe Heim.

The driver of the vehicle was taken into police custody.

After hundreds of white supremacists marched across the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville with store-bought Tiki torches Friday night, their rally descended into violence after fights broke out with UVA students and others who have also organized this weekend to oppose and denounce the hate-fueled gathering which its right-wing organizers have dubbed “Unite the Right.”

The torch-bearing marchers shouted “Blood and Soil!” and “You Will Not Replace Us!” as they marched in a line through the campus as law enforcement sought to create buffer between them and those denouncing their “pathetic” and “hate-filled” behavior.

Those countering the racist factions—which some describe as the “Alt Right” movement—said it was not sufficient, as some have argued, to simply ignore this weekend’s gathering or let the movement of white nationalism fester in the absence of rebuke.

“We cannot dismiss the alt right as a joke,” said Matthew Owens, a member of Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), part of the Solidarity C’Ville coalition organizing counter-protests this weekend. “We cannot ignore them away as their numbers grow and their influence expands. We cannot let their worldview normalize. We must be clear, united, and vocal in our opposition.”

UVA president, Teresa A. Sullivan, condemned Friday night’s violence and the attack on students. “I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the hateful behavior displayed by torch-bearing protestors that marched on our Grounds this evening,” Sullivan said in a statement. “I strongly condemn the unprovoked assault on members of our community, including University personnel who were attempting to maintain order. ”

Meanwhile, as the white supremacists were marching with their torches on Friday night, a multi-faith prayer service and community gathering took place nearby where community organizers, religious leaders, and others talked about the importance of countering the weekend’s message of hate and division.

“This is a pivotal moment in our nation,” said the Rev. Susan Frederick-Gray, president of the Unitarian Universalist Association, at the event. “I am here to show up on the side of love. This is a time when violence, fear and radicalized hate have been given permission. It is important for people of conscience to say that love and equity is our future.”

As local journalist Jackson Landers reports for Rewire, many residents and businesses across Charlottesville are also finding creative ways to proclaim their opposition to the gathered white supremacists:

Many downtown businesses will be closed [Saturday] on what would normally be a busy day at the height of the tourism season. Some will board up their windows. If past white nationalist events are prologue, members of the so-called alt-right are unlikely to be served by or allowed to enter any of the downtown restaurants. Signs declaring a side have become one of the most visible forms of downtown preparation for the rally. As some signs popping up outside popular restaurants downtown read, “If equality and diversity aren’t for you, then neither are we.”

The white supremacists are protesting the city’s decision to take down a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. Counter-demonstrators are using the social media hashtags #DefendCville and #LoveOverFear to spread their message that those espousing hate and racism should be actively confronted and challenged, not simply ignored.

About an hour after the governor of Virginia declared an emergency, Donald Trump responded to the unrest with a tweet:

“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”

He followed it up with another tweet:

“But Charlottesville sad!”

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Email subscribers may click on the title of this post to watch the video.


 

This report, first published in Common Dreams, has been updated.

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Participants of the white supremacist march held bamboo torches, some of which were used as weapons, and marched across the UVA campus on Friday. The violent demonstration continued on Saturday when one person was killed. (Photo: Andrew Shurleff/The Daily Progress)

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