Five years later, most Charlottesville residents still remember where they were on August 11th and 12th, 2017. marched Enter the house with a torch. I also remember college students who were on the ground.
Benjamin Dougherty, the law school’s library director and research librarian, was in the church across the street from the college during the August 11 service, watching as white supremacists surrounded the Jefferson statue students. The next day, Doherty joined thousands of protesters at the Downtown Mall as “Unite Right”. rally started.They were there when James Fields was drove Charlottesville resident Heather Heyer was killed and 19 injured when his car rammed a group of protesters.
Kellen Squire, an emergency department nurse, was in the ER at Martha Jefferson Hospital, triaging injured patients. His wife worked alongside him as the department’s chief nurse.
Unitarian Universalist pastor Christina Rivera witnessed the same “river of hate” that Doherty saw when she stood with a group of clergymen at her church on August 11, and then the next day. I joined them downtown.
Dr. Kathryn Loughn, an associate professor at the School of Nursing, also said she was in church both days, even though she doesn’t go to church. She tracked down a group downtown as they confronted and disrupted white supremacists.
Class of 2022, Sarandon Elliott, was just starting community college 70 miles away.
In different places, in different communities, each felt the ripples of the day in different ways.
“It was really calculated,” said Doherty.
For many Charlottesville residents, especially those involved in organizing efforts and activities, the events of August 11 and 12 came as no surprise.
Doherty has lived in Charlottesville for 22 years and has worked in the law library for 18 years. His wife is a professor in the English Department, and the two are heavily involved in anti-racism efforts in Charlottesville. show up for racial justice I worked with them in 2017.
“People call it the ‘Summer of Hate’ because it wasn’t just August 11th and 12th,” Dougherty said. “We knew [the ‘Unite the Right’ rally] We started organizing months and months and months and months ago. ”
it was clear there was something [brewing] the city council decision Remove the Robert E. Lee Statue Painting oppose When lawsuitA group of protesters revealed in May collected At Market Street Park, we held torches to protest the decision and compared the community demonstration to a Ku Klux Klan rally.
When held by members of the KKK rally At the July 8th event at Court Square Park, organizers and activists like Doherty and Ruffen weren’t surprised.
Loughn, who has been teaching in Charlottesville since 2004, remembers the chaos of the day, the surrealism and chaos when an estimated 1,000 dissident protesters met 50 KKK members in the park. It was “total madness”.
“I went home and said, ‘Okay, we’re past free speech,'” Lafn said. “One, it’s clear to me that this is dangerous. It’s dangerous for everyone. This is especially dangerous for the black community in Charlottesville, the Jewish community in Charlottesville.”
When news of the August 12 rally began to spread, residents of Charlottesville voiced He expressed concern over the way the city handled the July 8 rally and requested that the city rescind permits for the August rally.When the rally was revealed, organizers prepared and discussed how the city would stand up to white supremacists schedule Increase police presence in anticipation of rallies and close roads.
“We knew things were going to get worse,” said Squire. “I was like, ‘This is going to be a bigger deal. We need to pay attention.'”
Squire remembers a woman who “desperately” threw herself at him in the emergency room, trying to get information about her family. Doherty remembers standing outside the church on August 11, guarding those inside and watching students surround the statue. He regrets not joining them. When he was downtown at 5:30 on the morning of Aug. 12, Raffn remembers knowing that his plan to confront the protesters was the right one and that he had “taken their power away.” increase. Rivera remembers his father’s advice to never turn your back on someone with a weapon.
In the weeks following the rally, student When community member Will criticize the way the city and university handled the rally – city council leaked saying ‘all hands were or should have been on deck’ memo Read on to detail your concerns about police inaction, inadequate security, and the city’s communications failure to keep the public informed.
a report An investigation conducted by then district attorney Tim Heaphy revealed that the university’s law enforcement failed to handle the August 11th torch march. I knew that Regarding the previous march, former university president Teresa Sullivan claimed: video “I didn’t know they were coming.”
“Universities did nothing. Universities simply let these white supremacists carry torches and run through campuses and commit whatever violence they want,” Doherty said. “But those students couldn’t stand it.”
That sentiment was also shared by Rivera and Rafun that it was the responsibility of students, organizers and activists to resist the white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville on August 11 and 12.
“I can’t see the 8.11 video — [the students] It was very brave,” said Rafun. “And they came back on August 12th.”
Rivera said she realized after the rally that her safety was “not a priority” by institutions such as the university and the police. She is needed to obtain liberation. ”
As Charlottesville and the university grappled with the traumatic impact of that summer, organizers and students continued their work. assembled To hold universities accountable for their failures.A year after his rally, anti-racist series of demonstrations In solidarity with the community, members of the community continued to hold the city accountability for that action.On-site, students Asked Presence of a Confederate memorial. Four years later, in 2021, the community will saw Robert E. Lee and Tonas “Stonewall” Jackson have finally been lifted off the pedestal.
It’s a legacy of this activism that applies to students and alumni like Elliott. It wasn’t until she entered the Grounds that she realized how much her college’s history impacted her daily life, and how she could take that history and learn from it. said.
Elliot was involved in and chaired the Black Students Alliance. U.Va’s Young Democratic Socialist in America — and its National Coordinating Committee — and directed U.Va. Mutual Aida student-run organization that provides unconditional grants to students in times of crisis.
“Looking at what happened that weekend and especially how much damage the university was complicit in…that’s why I wanted to do the work I did in college,” Elliott said. . “It was very important to me to build power, especially for the black working class in college.”
Student activists and organizers change every four years, according to Elliott, so maintaining institutional knowledge is difficult but important. But it is “100% the responsibility of the students” to analyze the university, hold the institution accountable and “turn around”. [knowledge] to power. ”
Rivera also encourages students to “not create fictionalized versions of crimes” and to critically examine the narratives offered by the college.
These stories include how the university interacts with the Charlottesville community, encouraging students to be “part of making things better,” Squire said. increase.
“U.Va.’s role in this cannot be forgotten,” says Laughon. “We, as a university community, have a special obligation to admit complicity in that incident, but also to white supremacy and the ongoing need to confront it.”
Laughon, who also heads the nursing school’s doctoral program, said he spends an hour at the start of each orientation with new students to discuss anti-racism in the classroom.
Outside the classroom and off the grounds, activists agree there is still much work to be done to root out the hatred that has taken root in the history of Charlottesville in 2017.
“We need to stay focused on raising the roots of white supremacy,” Dougherty said.
For example, affordable housing is a community issue. concentration Under attack as a low-income citizen extruded in their neighborhood.Low-income, non-white communities are also struggling access Health Food, Charlottesville Citizens’ Problem food justice network I am trying to deal with it.Both Rivera and Doherty Mentioned Effort To bring years of police resources back to the community.
Defeating white supremacy and facing it head-on made a difference, Doherty said in August 2017.
“There’s a legacy of terrible, horrible, racist evil, but it’s also a legacy of courage,” said Rafn.
Congregate Charlottesville, a local faith-based grassroots organization, is raising funds for community members with ongoing needs that occurred on August 11th and 12th. You can donate to this fund. here.