Make them pay
If the alt-right wants another permit to demonstrate in Charlottesville, why not charge a fee of about $75,000 to $100,000? The KKK rally cost city taxpayers almost 60 grand, and this last weekend will cost even more. If the city is accused of price gouging, it can always argue that’s just business and that’s the fair market value. I realize that’s also extreme, but why should we citizens have to pay for this?
The fight for what is right
The civil war clash between factions that occurred last weekend in Charlottesville was no surprise attack. A wide-eyed fight of titans happened in my town, make no mistake.
The front line was drawn on the Downtown Mall. I went toe to toe with American terrorism, where normally there is ice cream, neighbors strolling and local musicians filling the air.
I was in the chaos and skirmishes where open-carry militias with neo-Nazi idealism were brandishing against townspeople, priests, hippies and millennials.
I yelled in the face of a man with an AK-47 in his hand, a hand gun on his hip and a sheathed knife across his chest. I yelled, “I am a Jew! This is my town! Go home! Go home!” He walked with his fellow warrior types, a few hundred of them there to protect an old Confederate statue. They sweated as they tried to move up the avenue to take the hill that was Lee Park.
They slowly walked in groups of 20, in full militia dress in different parts of town. A group of Black Lives Matter had a confrontation with them in a parking lot across from a few closed restaurants. There was fearless yelling, a water bottle was thrown, brothers next to brothers stood shoulder to shoulder. I saw the sweat and truth, good and evil going eye to eye. A police line came up and slowly, crossed and we all followed or walked away.
There was a parade of people with solidarity posters, wearing T-shirts and red bandannas, they came south from the old Jackson Park, marched past a closed bakery onto the Downtown Mall to Water Street then turned east. The smell of pepper and vinegar in the air, old and young making their voices heard, “This is my town! Go home! This is my town!” They turned up Fourth Street past a family in a minivan waiting as the people went by. There was a second car in line as the marchers continued to sing together up to the mall. Our angels got distracted here as something flew up in the air; all hell broke loose and the chanting became screams. The crowd turned like a school of fish, like a swarm of starlings toward us. There were a hundred people running, then they stopped, and the screams became worried yells for help. People next to me stood on their toes to bear witness to what just happened.
A young woman in tears lay against the wall. Her friend had carried her, she asked for water, both wide-eyed and scared. Others made their way to the shade, sitting, staring in shock, talking in low mumbled voices. Street medics were on the scene attending, bandaging, water was being handed out. The first ambulance arrived, a second and the fire truck, all with lights and sirens made their way through, stretchers and medical bags brought out, the clergy helping those among us.
My city changed here, trash and sticks lay in the gutter, barricades with yellow tape all around. The mall, parks, sidewalks were empty and in the sun of an August afternoon downtown Charlottesville was left like a war zone. Small groups walked quietly, police stood in the shade, reporters checked their phones, no militia around and the T-shirts with red bandannas walked back to their homes. My group and I walked away peacefully. My town had changed.
My Charlottesville will sweep up the debris and find a way to bandage what is left. Racism is ugly and hate is worse. No one can fix this and I have no answers. We have to meditate and pray for peace and at times we have to work, yell and sweat for what is right.
Alan Box Levine
Some blame rests with city leaders
The City Council bears some blame for the weekend violence. Their dithering and indecisiveness about the fate of the Lee statue have provided a rallying point for the alt-right.
We all will be replaced
As a liberal, Jew, feminist, pro-immigrant granddaughter of immigrants, I’d never have thought I had anything in common with Richard Spencer. But then I read his motto in your interview: “We will not be replaced.”
I remember saying the same thing, a long time ago. At age 4, I saw people I loved die for the first time.
“Why do people die?” I asked my father.
“We have to make room for new people,” he said. “New families with new babies will live in this house someday.”
“No!” I said. “They can’t! It’s our house!”
I remember the sense of panic at the thought of getting replaced by strangers. I still don’t like it, though eventually I stopped fighting, because it was pointless. In other words, I grew up.
The fact is everything and everyone gets replaced. People die, populations change. In the ’70s, Miami Beach was filled with old Jewish people like my grandparents, immigrants from Eastern Europe. You not only heard Yiddish on the streets, but the hotel where we stayed had a light switch labeled not “on” and “off,” but “open” and “closed.” “Open the light,” my grandmother used to say. I miss those people and the way they spoke. But nothing lasts forever. Spanish signs replace Yiddish ones; it’s how the world works.
As our country’s population changes and we (hopefully) get wiser, Charlottesville and other cities are re-examining the history of white domination. Richard Spencer and his Nazi pals don’t like that. They think that because their preferred group holds a privileged position now, it should always remain so: twas ever thus. But twas never thus, especially in the land now called the United States of America. When Leif Erikson got here, he did not find white Southerners, any more than a Florida filled with old Jews. White supremacists think if they make enough of a fuss and get others to join them, they can turn back time. But they cannot. They will be replaced, not because they are white or mean-spirited, but because we all get replaced, one day, like it or not.