Americas: United States
Racial hatred and violence mark white nationalist protests in Charlottesville, VA
Heather Heyer, 32, of Charlottesville was killed and more individuals were injured on August 12th, 2017 as a car purposefully slammed into a crowd of counter-protestors where a “Unite the Right” rally of white nationalists and affiliated groups was set to occur. In addition, a state police helicopter tasked with monitoring the rally crashed a few miles outside of downtown Charlottesville killing two state troopers, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, who would have turned 41 the following day. The violence marked the climax of events that began when white nationalists convened an evening torchlight march the night before at the University of Virginia, the university founded by Thomas Jefferson.
In the wake of these violent events, Governor Terry McAuliffe launched a philippic directed at the far-right white nationalists in which he implored them to “go home” and declared: “You are not wanted in this great commonwealth. Shame on you."
President Trump’s initial response from his golf resort in Bedminster condemned “hatred, bigotry, and violence that’s on many sides, on many sides.” The emphasis the President put on “many sides” was interpreted as an attempt to strike a moral equivalence between the far-right white nationalist protestors and the counter-protestors. In response to this criticism, President Trump delivered another statement on August 14th, 2017 in which he labeled the KKK and white supremacists specifically as “criminals and thugs.” But the following day, President Trump pivoted back to the narrative that all sides share blame by saying that the “alt-left” shares responsibility for the violence in Charlottesville. He also declared there were “very fine people on both sides” at Charlottesville even when it was known one side included far-right white nationalist groups and neonazis.
Former President Barack Obama weighed in on the events on Twitter with the words of Nelson Mandela: "No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love. For love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite."
The Department of Justice announced a civil rights investigation into the car-ramming incident hours after it occurred.
The protests and counter-protests began when it was reported that white nationalists were holding a torchlight march on the University of Virginia’s campus on the night of August 11th, 2017. The white nationalists shouted the following slogans: “White lives matter!” “Blood and soil!” “Jews will not replace us!” They would eventually converge on the statue of Thomas Jefferson, where a group of student counter-protestors locked arms around the statue’s base and faced the white nationalist protestors. The two groups at certain points engaged in physical altercations and even deployed pepper spray. Police intervened several minutes later.
The following day, Saturday, August 12th, 2017, white nationalists and counter-protestors gathered in the early day at Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, VA, the site where a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee was pending removal, which was the specific reason white nationalists were protesting there. White nationalists carried shields and clubs with some even carrying firearms and many counter-protestors also carried sticks and clubs. The volatile combination eventually exploded around 11 AM with scuffles breaking out and the spraying of chemicals between both sides. By 11:22 AM, law enforcement declared an unlawful assembly and ordered both groups to disperse. A substitute rally was scheduled to be held at McIntire Park, but a state of emergency was declared which precluded the rally from proceeding.
Quite a distance from this park, a car plowed through a crowd of counter-protestors on 4th street, rear-ended another vehicle, and then reversed itself on the same street. Heather Heyer was killed and 19 more were injured in this incident that witnesses made clear was an intentional act of violence. The suspect involved in this deadly attack was identified as James Alex Fields Jr., 20, and was held in a Virginia jail on charges including second-degree murder.
A little after 7 PM, another incident occurred when a state police helicopter monitoring the rally crashed killing state troopers Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates. No distress call was reported according to the National Transportation Safety Board.
-- August 15, 2017
Alexander Ross, PhD ABD.
Content Development Writer
Denise Youngblood Coleman, PhD.
President and Editor in Chief