Violence erupts after white power rally in Charlottesville

Photo by Rex Hammock, published on March 21, 2008, Some rights reserved, license link:, original link to work: The rally was held at the University of Virginia, where officials had planned to take down a Robert E. Lee statue.

`America was shocked when, on Saturday, August 12, 2017, a white nationalist rally on the campus of the University of Virginia grew violent when met by counter-protesters.

Rally organizer, Jason Kessler, planned the rally for months in response to the removal of a local statue of Robert E. Lee. This was not the first event of its kind, with a torch-lit white power rally in May and a gathering of the Ku Klux Klan from North Carolina the previous month.

That morning, faith leaders, individual protesters, and those from organizations such as Black Lives Matter and Showing Up For Racial Justice gathered at a historically black church and began to counter-protest at 8a.m. They soon met the protesters, who were waiting to rally at noon.

What began as two opposite protests soon grew into various brawls – water bottles, urine-filled balloons, flagpoles, clubs, pepper spray and smoke bombs all contributing to the violence.

One of the most notable events from the rally was when a Dodge Challenger was driven into the crowd, resulting in the death of one woman and the injuries of various others. The woman, Heather D. Heyer, was a Charlottesville paralegal who scorned discrimination. Virginia Governor, Terry McAucliffe, honored her and others during a ceremony in a historically black church, saying that, “She was doing what she loved. She was fighting for democracy, [for] free speech, to stop hatred and bigotry.”

The alleged driver, 20-year-old James Alex Fields Jr., is now convicted of a failure to stop the accident, malicious wounding, and second-degree murder. His mother, Samantha Bloom, in a confused response to her son’s actions, said that she “didn’t know it was white supremacists. I thought it had something to do with Trump.”

Members of both sides called out the police for being unprepared and not doing their part in calming the violence that had broken out in the streets. “There was no police presence,” Brittany Caine-Conley, a local minister in training spoke out. said. “We were watching people punch each other; people were bleeding all the while police were inside of barricades at the park, watching. It was essentially just brawling on the street and community members trying to protect each other.” Even Kessler believed that the police officers failed in their duties to maintain order and keep citizens safe.

Kessler attempted to give a press conference after the event, but it was soon ended by the presence of counter-protesters and a man, Jeff Winder, punching him in the face. Later, Winder said, “Free speech does not protect hate speech.”

Various political leaders spoke in light of the event. The Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, in response to the event, said that “They [white supremacists] get out of bed every day to hate people and divide our country. Let’s be honest, they need to leave America, because they are not Americans.” Vice President Mike Pence spoke while in Cartagena, Colombia, saying that, “These dangerous fringe groups have no place in American public life and in the American debate and we condemn them in the strongest possible terms.” There was much controversy over Trump’s response, which initially didn’t directly mention white supremacists and caused much backlash. He later gave out more statements condemning those at the rally.

Rallies around the world have occurred in light of the events, sharing their disdain at the discrimination in Charlottesville. Charlottesville attempts to recover from the event, with Sunday church services spreading messages of love in response to Saturday’s hate.