Those who were in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Friday, July 11, 2017, on the University of Virginia campus witnessed white nationalists carrying torches, chanting anti-Semitic slurs, and displaying Nazi-associated slogans. All of this, while parading Nazi flags through the streets. However, the next day, people witnessed the terror in Virginia, as the Charlottesville protest turned deadly. Those in attendance observed an even more horrific scene of domestic terrorism that would leave 19 wounded and one dead, after a car plowed into the crowd.
Charlottesville Protest Turns Deadly
The chaos occurred after white nationalists and counter-protesters clashed earlier in the day. The interaction between the two was aggressive and violent. This caused city law enforcement and Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe to announce a state of emergency. Hours before local government was forced to intervene, marchers were chanting, “Jews will not replace us!” Many attendees were dressed in Nazi paraphernalia and walking around carrying flags with swastikas and confederate emblems. They also wore shirts with quotes from Adolf Hitler.
The biggest scare came after 1 p.m. ET, when a video was posted to social media. In the video, it appeared a car was driven into a group of counter-marchers, as they moved through the boulevards of Charlottesville. People watched in horror as the vehicle, driven by James Alex Fields, struck several people. Then, he backed up and escaped the scene. Fields is 20 years old and from Maumee, Ohio.
The Sacred City of Charlottesville
The beautiful city of Charlottesville is an independent metropolitan area within the Commonwealth of Virginia. Unlike other parts of the state, the city managed to escape the impact of the American Civil War. The only combat that occurred in Charlottesville was the battle at Rio Hill. For a short time, George Armstrong Custer fought local Confederate home guards before he withdrew for good.
Besides is exquisiteness, Charlottesville is home to many distinguished persons, from historical celebrities like James Monroe and Thomas Jefferson, to literary stars, such as William Faulkner and Edgar Allan Poe. It was also the place where civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave a speech in Old Cabell Hall, at the University of Virginia to 900 individuals, in 1963.
The Civil Rights Movement
Terror has shown its ugly face in Virginia before. Over 50 years ago, the Charlottesville protests were violent but fortunately, they did not turn deadly. The University of Virginia’s first black students, Virginius Thornton and Wesley Harris arrived on campus, in 1960. Harris was an undergraduate working on a degree in aeronautical engineering. Thornton was the first black graduate student to be accepted into the doctoral program. Both students were protesters around the campus and the city of Charlottesville. In concert, they demonstrated at places that did not serve blacks, such as Buddy’s Restaurant on Emmet Street and the Holiday Inn. They served on the committees which worked toward the endorsement of interracial fairness. Harris was chairman of the committee when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke.
By the late 1960s, the University of Virginia (UVA) finally came alive with politicking that was tainting many views on campus. The students of UVA were involved in many protests, whether they were black or white. The university had a custom for students to look their best regardless of what they were doing. The University of Virginia was the only college in the nation that held demonstrations with students dressed in coats and ties.
Fortunately, the protests of 52 years ago ended with the desegregation of movie houses, motels, cafeterias, public drinking fountains, and bathrooms, which started the era of civil rights in Charlottesville. The same cannot be said about the demonstrations that occurred Saturday.
The car crash killed a 32-year-old woman whose name is unknown. The law enforcement agency is treating it as a criminal homicide, and Fields is being charged with second-degree murder. The collision occurred during a stressful day of demonstrations as white nationalists, Ku Klux Klan members, neo-Nazis, and other white supremacists congregated in Charlottesville to protest plans to pull down a Confederate memorial.
Opinion News by Jomo Merritt
Edited by Jeanette Smith
NBC News: Charlottesville White Nationalist Rally Leaves One Dead, More Than Two Dozen Injured
Vox: This weekend’s Charlottesville rally represents an alliance between pro-Confederates and Nazis
The Daily Progress: Civil rights leaders reflect on Charlottesville segregation 50 years after King speech
Image by Cville dog Courtesy of Wikimedia – Public Domain License