Everything you need to know about what happened in Charlottesville
If you’ve checked any form of social media this past weekend, you noticed all of the chaos and tweetstorms surrounding events happening in Charlottesville, Virginia.
This event turned out to spark one of the most racially contentious time periods in the United States since the beginning of Donald Trump’s presidency. Maybe the most contentious in decades.
While you probably have a basic understanding of what happened, you may not have spent your weekend staying updated. So here’s what you need to know.
At the center of events was the controversial weekend-long rally called “Unite the Right,” held by white supremacy groups that call themselves “white nationalists.” Their decision to protest was made after the city of Charlottesville decided to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a local park.
In case you didn’t pay much attention in US History class, Robert E. Lee was the commanding general of the confederate army during the Civil War, in the downtown area’s Emancipation Park. And Lee is basically the figurehead underneath which racists and confederate flag-toting Southerners unite around.
Like it or not, these people had a right to protest the removal of the statue.
Protesting is not a crime. Protesting is lawful.
That is, until protesting turns violent.
Friday was the first night of the protest, and it didn’t take long before people started making memes poking fun at all the angry white men in polos, holding tiki-torches meant for a backyard BBQ they probably bought in bulk from Wal-Mart on their way over.
I can’t stop laughing at this. They are dead serious carrying tiki torches they bought at Lowe’s 😂😂😂😂😂😂 pic.twitter.com/1ZuvtgnyPu
— ray lewis jr (@ASAPLiz) August 14, 2017
But what wasn’t laughable was the way the police removed themselves from the area and left protestors to fend for themselves against the hate groups. The police did the same on Saturday after more counter-protestors arrived, essentially setting the stage for the violent clashes that followed.
“There was no police presence,” one protestor allegedly told the New York Times. “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.”
The Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe, defended the actions of police, saying that the worst of the violence couldn’t have been prevented because despite the verbal and physical havoc wreaked by the white supremacists, 80 percent of them were carrying semi-automatic weapons. The police were under-equipped.
But even the police couldn’t stop what was going to happen next: during the rally on Saturday, a car plowed through a crowd of counter-protestors, which killed one woman, and injured 19 other people.
Video of car hitting anti-racist protestors. Let there be no confusion: this was deliberate terrorism. My prayers with victims. Stay home. pic.twitter.com/MUOZs71Pf4
— Brennan Gilmore (@brennanmgilmore) August 12, 2017
Thirty-two year-old Heather Heyer is the name of the woman who was killed and the driver has been identified as a 20 year-old white man, James Alex Fields of Ohio. He is being described as an alleged white supremacist. According to the Associated Press, one of his high school teachers said Fields “was fascinated with Nazism, idolized Adolf Hitler and had been singled out by school officials in the 9th grade for his “deeply held, radical” convictions on race.”
After the car incident, the physical violence only grew.
Eventually it settled on Sunday, but the thing about this specific event is that these white supremacists are citing the words of the president to defend their actions. They are using him to prop up their hatred and bigotry. One of the leaders of the “Unite the Right” movement, David Duke, even said so himself.
David Duke today in #Charlottesville talking how how the hate rally “fulfills the promises of Donald Trump.” pic.twitter.com/nvldJpykvA
— Joanna Robinson (@jowrotethis) August 12, 2017
And what has Trump done about it? He has sent his “Best Regards” to families of the victims, and then stated that there was violence on “many sides.”
The president has been more directly critical of TV hosts, cable news, actresses, comedy shows, & the intelligence community than of nazis.
— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) August 12, 2017
President Trump’s failure to directly call out white supremacy and domestic terrorism in the same way he calls out “radical Islamic terrorism” just proves that his “call it like it is” mantra is only relevant when it works in his favor. And it becomes extra sus when you look at his direct personal ties to the movement.
Trump’s father was actually arrested at a KKK rally in NYC in 1927. Whether he was an actual Klan member or just a supporter is unclear, but the connection is undeniable.
You might ask “How did we get here?” and “How was a public rally for white nationalists and neo-Nazis in a small Virginia town even allowed?”
Well that pesky thing called the First Amendment allows for it, and even though at first their speech appears hateful, it’s protected.
Unfortunately, this weekend was just one of the first tastes of 2017 white supremacy we are sure to get as the Trump presidency continues along because the “Unite the Right” movement still have several events planned for the future.
While many people were using the hashtag #ThisIsNotUs to denounce and distance themselves from the racially charged events, this is who we are as Americans. Maybe it’s not how you are, or how your friends are, but there’s no denying this is who some Americans are.
And these kinds of hateful events, and the violence that follows will continue to happen if we don’t make it clear right now that there’s no tolerance for these ideas.
This is the nation that our history and current choices have created, but it doesn’t have to be forever.