It’s taken me a full seven days to even begin to fully process what exactly happened in Charlottesville last week, especially since the historic city is only 2 1/2 hours from where I live.
Here’s a synopsis of what exactly happened, from Thursday, August 10th, through Monday, August 14th. I tried to write this in my own words, but I also used the timeline of events from news station WJLA.
On Thursday, August 10th, two days before the “Unite the Right” white nationalist demonstration is scheduled to occur, event organizer Jason Kessler files a federal lawsuit against the city of Charlottesville, Virginia. The city moved the planned rally from Emancipation Park to McIntire Park.
On Friday, August 11th, a federal judge rules in Kessler’s favor. The rally is moved back to Emancipation Park, still scheduled for the next day.
On Friday evening, a group of white nationalists, carrying lit torches, march through the University of Virginia (UVA) campus.
On Saturday, August 12th, several hours before the rally’s scheduled start time, the rallying white nationalists and a group of counter-protestors arrive at Emancipation Park. Shortly before noon, violence erupts. Law enforcement quickly declares “an unlawful assembly” and works to disperse the groups as peacefully and as swiftly as possible. The Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, declares a state of emergency.
Around 1:30 p.m., a silver Dodge Challenger plows into a group of counter-protestors. One woman, later identified as Heather Heyer, 32, succumbs to her injuries. Nineteen others are injured. After the collision, the car is put into reverse and speeds away, as a crowd chases after the driver.
A press conference is held at 6:00 p.m. Governor McAuliffe vehemently condemns the white supremacists, and commands them to “go home.”
By Saturday evening, the driver of the Dodge Challenger has been arrested. He is identified as 20-year-old James Alexander Fields, Jr. Law enforcement announces three other arrests – Jacob Smith is charged with assault and battery after punching a reporter in the face; Troy Dunigan is charged with disorderly conduct after throwing things into the crowd; and James O’Brien was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon.
On Sunday, August 13th, dozens of rallies and vigils are held. The Governor of Virginia, along with other Virginia lawmakers, are seen worshiping in various churches throughout the state, and encourage others to do the same. “Unite the Right” organizer Jason Kessler attempts to hold a press conference. Kessler is heckled by the crowd, tackled to the ground, and one man is arrested for spitting in Kessler’s face.
Interviews are conducted with those associated with Fields. Former teachers and classmates state that he was obsessed with Nazism, and held those beliefs starting in high school.
On Monday, August 14th, Fields appeared in court. No bail was set. The Department of Justice opens a civil rights investigation into the car attack.
“If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention”
~ Heather Heyer
This was Heather’s last Facebook status before she died.
After the horrific events in Charlottesville, immediate attention was focused on the remaining Confederate monuments and statues around the country.
One of my former professors, Elizabeth Hall Magill, penned a powerful blog post:
My friend Becca posted this Facebook status on Wednesday, August 16th:
“You cannot claim to be a Christian yet worship these Confederate statues so much that keeping them up is more important to you than respecting that it pains your fellow humans to see oppressive people glorified. God said it best:
‘Do not turn to idols or make for yourselves any gods of cast metal: I am the Lord your God.’ –Leviticus 19:4
Every statue will come down. Anyone with compassion will support that.”
I wanted to include multiple sources of information surrounding these events:
- Why Charlottesville? (The Atlantic, August 12th)
- Events Surrounding White Nationalist Rally In Virginia Turn Fatal (NPR, August 12th)
- A Guide to the Charlottesville Aftermath (The New York Times, August 13th)
- Here’s what Robert E. Lee thought about Confederate monuments (Business Insider, August 16th)
- Unsure about Confederate statues? Ask yourself if you support white supremacy (The Fresno Bee, August 16th)
- Your Whataboutism Is Exposing Your Racism (Scary Mommy)
- White Supremacist Cries After Realizing He Could Be Arrested (Mother Jones, August 16th)
- A running list of companies that no longer want The Daily Stormer’s business (The Washington Post, August 16th)
- Charlottesville: Race and Terror (VICE News, August 17th)
- McAuliffe bars demonstrations at Lee Monument in Richmond (WAVY-TV / Associated Press Staff, August 18th)
- How the disaster in Charlottesville unfolded, as told by the people who were there (Richmond Times-Dispatch, August 18th)
- Charlottesville mayor: I changed my mind about Confederate monuments (CNN, August 19th)
- The rise and humiliating fall of Chris Cantwell, Charlottesville’s starring ‘fascist’ (The Washington Post, August 19th)
There’s so much information to process.
Here’s what I personally believe:
- I’m sad that all of this has happened. I’m sad that Heather Heyer died. I’m sad the two Virginia State Troopers died in the helicopter crash outside of the city. I’m sad that many others were injured in the car attack. However, I’m also filled with hope. I feel like these events are a bit of a turning point for our country. In the last week, suspects have been identified and swiftly arrested, charged with crimes that they egregiously committed. People have come together, to stand together, and say, “Enough is enough. We will not tolerate this. Racism has no place in our country.”
- There’s a lot more work to do than just rallies and vigils and speeches. I hope the positive movements do not lose momentum. I hope people continue to push and press for change!
- The American people have a right to protest, but if, and only if, said protest is legal. Meaning, the proper permits have been obtained, and it is peaceful / non-violent. The second it becomes unlawful, law enforcement can and should step in and disband the group. In addition, protesters should meet with city officials and local law enforcement beforehand, if at all possible, to make sure everyone is aware of everyone’s intentions. Communication is key!
- All Confederate monuments and statues should be removed in a legal and peaceful manner. The city of Baltimore, Maryland, accomplished this successfully, just this past week. Other cities are beginning to follow suit. Confederate history belongs in museums, not in public places. The only exception that I personally make to “public places” is cemeteries where Confederate soldiers are buried and remembered. There’s more of those cemeteries in existence than you think.
- I encourage everyone to educate themselves. I don’t want people to follow a particular opinion just because it’s popular or it’s all over the news. I want people to look inside themselves, deep inside, and figure out how they’re feeling about all of this. If you’re angry, tell someone. If you’re sad, tell someone. Write about it – Like I am right now. Don’t be afraid to express yourself. Now is not the time to hold back. We need more voices, more actions, to make sure changes occur. If the American people don’t want another Charlottesville, we need to stand up. We need to stand up together and make change happen!
All that said, what I just wrote is my own opinion. These are my beliefs.
I am a Christian woman, and I strive every day to be more Christ-like. I want to do as much good in the world as possible. But, I also want to pay attention to the issues in my world, and in the world around me. Turning a blind eye does absolutely nothing. That’s part of the reason why I wrote this post. I believe in the power of prayer, but I also firmly believe in the age-old saying, “Action speak louder than words.”
Personally, I applaud my friends and colleagues who were in Charlottesville a week ago, determined to counter-protest against the white nationalists and white supremacists. I think that is a powerful and respectable statement to make. Not everyone has the strength and courage that you do.
To conclude, I want to try to answer the question I posed in the title of this blog post – Now What?
For me, I think changes are already occurring. Changes started on August 11th and August 12th. But, as I said earlier, I hope the positive movements do not lose momentum.
I hope that, eventually, all cities in the United States peacefully and legally remove their Confederate statues and monuments, or relocate them to Confederate cemeteries. I hope museums are able to further educate people about the Civil War and the role the Confederacy played. The war officially ended in 1865, but I feel like, some days, we’re still fighting a portion of it, in 2017.
Here’s a few resources that I found helpful:
- Ten Ways to Fight Hate: A Community Guide Response (Southern Poverty Law Center)
- Stop Hate Project (Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law)
- Legal Aid Justice Center (Specific to the Commonwealth of Virginia)
- Document hate crimes. Don’t be a bystander!
- Engage in conversations with your representatives and local police department.
- Community activism goes a long way. Don’t be an activist just behind your phone or computer.
Together, we can make a difference.
Until the next headline, Laura Beth 🙂