A recap of the violence in Charlottesville


Maggie Burton

The campus at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, Va. is usually quiet by night. But on the night of Aug. 11, a chorus of chants echoed through the center of the campus, and a sea of torches held by white supremacists and neo-Nazis could be seen. The Hitler Youth led similar marches nearly 75 years ago. According to ABC local news in Charlottesville, this was an act of protest against the city following its removal of the “Unite the Right” rally. This protest was led by Jason Kessler, a 33-year-old Charlottesville native, who filed a lawsuit against the city for the removal of the rally. The judge ruled in Kessler’s favor, and the rally was to be continued Saturday, Aug. 12.

But violence caused by white supremacists broke out before the event was scheduled to start in Charlottesville’s Emancipation Park, and responses from different forms of government were varied. Local government responded nearly instantly, including a tweet from the city’s official Twitter account: “Unlawful assembly declared for rally at Emancipation Park.” Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency shortly afterward.

Around noon, James Alex Fields Jr. rammed his Dodge Challenger into a mass of innocent bystanders, resulting in the death of 32-year-old Heather Heyer. Fields remains in police custody and is awaiting trial. Hannah Mitchell, junior, was disgusted.

“[The violence in Charlottesville] reflects how the world is going right now,” Mitchell said. “Everyone feels the need to fight with each other instead of talking and discussing our issues.”

Later that afternoon, a state police helicopter dispatched to record footage of the rioting plummeted to the ground. The violence below was deemed a viable link. These events ultimately culminated in the deaths of three people and 19 injuries. In response, Ross Stauder, sophomore, shares most of Mitchell’s views on the situation.

“What happened in Charlottesville should not happen again,” Ross Stauder, sophomore, said. “Protesting as a whole, I think, is a good thing. But when it escalates to somebody dying and many others injured, I think there’s a major problem.”

President Donald Trump issued a tweet shortly after the violence started stating that Americans must “condemn all that hate stands for.” Hours later, he released a statement on national television blaming the violence on “many sides.”

“I don’t think [Trump] handled it well at all,” Mitchell said. “I think there was violence on both sides, but he should have addressed the fact that it was much more violent on the right-wing side.”

When it comes to the violence as a whole, Stauder and Mitchell both agree. But when it comes to the response by President Trump, their opinions differ.

“When [Trump] commented and said that all sides are to blame, I agreed,” Stauder said. “Even though I believe the violence was not only perpetrated by [white supremacists], I condemn white supremacy and I think it’s evil.”

Furthermore, there exists a middle ground in the debate over these comments. Annika Kline, sophomore, believes Trump could have worded himself in a better way.

“The change in [Trump’s comments over time] makes him look untrustworthy,” Kline said.

The violence in Charlottesville, Va. was a reminder to the United States that racism is still alive. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there are 917 active hate groups in the United States, 99 of which are neo-Nazi groups, 100 are white nationalist groups, 130 are Ku Klux Klan groups and 193 are black separatist groups. Charlottesville has ignited a fire in the soul of America which will not be extinguished until racism ends. But in the meantime, Kline has ideas as to how to deal with confederate monuments.

“I believe [confederate monuments] belong in museums or in clearly marked places where information is presented about them,” Kline said. “They should be a symbol of the progress we’ve made towards racial equality and not of [white supremacy].”