There’s no denying that the political and cultural climates have been rife with controversy, aggression, and dissension for the entirety of this year. On Saturday, August 12, 2017, one of the most disconcerting, heartbreaking events so far occurred when a group of white nationalists gathered in Charlottesville, Va to protest the removal of a General Robert E. Lee statue and were met with anti-racism protestors. Violence ensued, and 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr. rammed his car into a crowd of anti-racism protestors, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring at least 19 others. An outcry throughout the nation arose when President Trump tweeted several times but failed to call out the white nationalist and neo-Nazi group members specifically and later blamed “both sides” during a press conference in Trump Tower the following day.
How it Began
A “Unite the Right” rally was organized by Jason Kessler (an alt-right activist) for August 11-12 in Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, to protest the decision by Virginia’s city council to remove Confederate memorials and statues throughout the city. On Friday, August 11, 2017, the rally attendees marched through the University of Virginia’s campus, reportedly holding tiki torches and chanting slogans such as “you will not replace us” and “white lives matter.” The next morning, Saturday, August 12, 2017, alt-right attendees and counter-protesters had already gathered before the rally’s scheduled noon commencement. By 11:40 a.m. the Virginia State Police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly due to several acts of violence, so the rally attendees moved to nearby McIntire Park so that those who’d planned on speaking at the rally could do so.
Who Was Involved in the “Unite the Right” Rally
White Nationalists/Alt-Right Members
Those who see white people as a race that should be upheld and promoted without infiltration from other races/cultures. White supremacy and white separatism are subgroups of white nationalism, with members believing that white people as superior to non-whites.
Individuals who seek to revive the Nazi movement post-World War II. The National Socialist Movement is currently the largest neo-Nazi organization in the United States.
Ku Klux Klan “KKK” Members
Individuals of several movements with foundations in white supremacy, anti-immigration, and white nationalism. The organization is currently classified as a hate group by the Anti-Defamation League.
How to Help in the Aftermath
- Support the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) either nationally or by joining a local chapter. Find information about membership, donations, and support here.
- Donate to the “C-Ville Protest Relief” page on GoFundMe.
- Donate to and promote the newly created Heather Heyer Foundation, founded by her mother with a mission to provide scholarships and financial assistance to individuals seeking education in law, social justice, paralegal studies, etc.
Sixteen more ways to offer your support in the aftermath of the Charlottesville protest can be found here.
For many, the United States of America has offered the promise of opportunity, achieved dreams, and safety and justice for all. Countless thousands have fought for the freedoms of all races, religions, cultures, and beliefs, and we must keep fighting even in the face of this adversity. Never allow your voice to be silenced in the support of freedom and acceptance for everyone.
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