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White Nationalists' March Sparks Violence in Virginia

White nationalists rally on the University of Virginia campus in Charlottesville Friday night. (Screen shot via Twitter)
Jon Queally / Common Dreams

By Jon Queally / Common Dreams

Editor’s note: Virginia’s governor declared a state of emergency after more violence erupted Saturday. One person is dead after a car plowed into protesters in Charlottesville. The driver of the car is reportedly in custody.

President Trump commented Saturday afternoon: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.”

Also on Saturday, a Virginia State Police helicopter that was helping monitor events in Charlottesville crashed, killing two troopers.

 Read about Friday night’s protests below.

After a couple hundred 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. ” UVA students were unimpressed with the racist factions who chose to use their campus as a place to gather:

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.”

On Saturday morning, the coalition allied against the white supremacist gathering are holding a counter-march in Charlottesville and 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.

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