By Samantha Baars, Jackson Landers, Jessica Luck, Erin O’Hare, Lisa Provence and Susan Sorensen 8/16/17 at 6:36 PM
Photo by Natalie Krovetz
It was the day that kept getting worse. The weekend from hell. Like many of you, C-VILLE Weekly is still processing Saturday’s violation from ill-intentioned visitors with antiquated notions who now believe it’s okay to say in broad daylight what they’ve only uttered in the nether regions of the internet.
The Unite the Right rally left three people dead and countless injured, both physically and psychologically. We, too, share the sorrow, despair and disgust from being slimed by hate.
But here’s one thing we know: Despite the murder, the assaults and the terror inflicted upon this community, Charlottesville said no to hate. And the world, it turns out, has our back.
We sent six reporters and two photographers out to document the August 12 rally at Emancipation Park, the community events taking place around it and the weekend of infamy. Here’s a timeline of what we saw and what we felt. Because this? This is our town.
Friday, August 11
Noon: A federal judge hears arguments in Jason Kessler’s lawsuit against the city for its decision to move the Unite the Right rally from its original location in Emancipation Park to McIntire Park. ACLU Virginia and the Rutherford Institute represent Kessler.
12:36pm: Albemarle police respond to a report of gun-brandishing men in the Walmart parking lot on Route 29. Daily Progress reporter Chris Suarez tweets that about 30 people are there, and that Unite the Right speaker/Radical Agenda radio host Chris Cantwell was open carrying with a gun in his back waistband. Perfectly legal, say Albemarle police.
4:30pm: City officials hold a press conference. Police Chief Al Thomas says this could be one of the largest demonstrations the city has experienced, and that 1,000 law enforcement and emergency responders will be on hand. Says Thomas, “The biggest mistake I could make” is to apply the same operational tactics tomorrow as at the KKK rally July 8. “This is a different event.”
5pm: Arguments wrap up in the injunction hearing.
8pm: Hundreds of people pack into St. Paul’s Memorial Church on University Avenue for an interfaith prayer service to “shore up people’s courage to participate,” says Jennifer Hoyt Tidwell, who attended the service with her 12-year-old daughter. So many people attended that St. Paul’s reaches its legal capacity and has to turn people away at the doors.
9:30-ish pm: Judge Glen Conrad issues an injunction that allows Jason Kessler to hold his Unite the Right rally in Emancipation Park. Conrad says the city’s disparate treatment of Kessler and its allowing permits for counter demonstrations in McGuffey and Justice parks suggest the permit revocation decision was content based.
9:38pm: On the heels of his court victory, Kessler joins hundreds of alt-righters who light tiki torches at Nameless Field and march through UVA Grounds and the Lawn, chanting, “You will not replace us.” They’re met at the Thomas Jefferson statue in front of the Rotunda by a small group of counterprotesters with a banner that says “VA students act against white supremacy.”
9:56pm: Once the service at St. Paul’s ends, the clergy asks everyone in attendance to leave with a friend out the back doors and not the front, which faces University Avenue, in full view of the Rotunda.
10pm: Everyone at St. Paul’s is asked to return to their seats. They remain in the church for another hour, until the white supremacists with torches have left.
10:16pm: Local activist Emily Gorcenski livestreams the procession until the marchers surrounded the statue; her stream abruptly ends and she’s pepper-sprayed. She says she had anticipated the torchbearers to line up in front of the Rotunda for a photo-op, and when they encircled the statue instead, she thought, “Okay, this is bad.” A brawl breaks out and some use their torches to club counterprotesters.
10:21pm: Daily Progress reporter Allison Wrabel tweets that the police are at the Rotunda. After Gorcenski washes her eyes with water, she says she then saw about a dozen police officers lined up. One person is arrested and several injured, including one University of Virginia Police Department officer, according to UVA.
“I went home and packed up and went to a safe house,” Gorcenski says, because she had received dozens of threats from people who’d like to “slit my throat” and “crush my skull.” Gorcenski files charges the next day against Unite the Right speaker/open gun carrier Chris Cantwell, and she says a photograph clearly shows him spraying the anti-racists. She notes that while the media was aware of the march and publicized it on Twitter, “The police should have known.” Gorcenski did not take part in counter demonstrations on Saturday. “I saw everything I needed to see Friday night as to who these people were,” she says.
12:54am: It’s quiet in front of the Rotunda. Extinguished tiki torches stick out of the tops of trash cans near University Avenue and the Rotunda Free Trolley stop.
1:01am: Senator Orrin Hatch tweets: “Their tiki torches may be fueled by citronella but their ideas are fueled by hate, & have no place in civil society.”
6:04am: Reverend Osagyefo Sekou leads the congregation at a sunrise service at First Baptist Church on West Main Street in singing “This Little Light Of Mine” as people file in. Dozens of clergy members of many faiths, from Charlottesville and elsewhere, sit toward the front.
6:10am: Deacon Don Gathers asks for everyone in attendance to pray for an end to oppression, tyranny and “400 years of misdeeds.” Members of the congregation bow their heads.
6:11am: Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy stands up and says, “When you walk today, know you are not alone. You are among family.”
6:16am: Reverend Traci Blackmon walks down the aisle toward the altar to standing applause. She repeats twice: “This is the day that the Lord has made, and I will rejoice and be glad in it.” She mentions the Friday night scene at St. Paul’s, when white supremacists marched with torches on the church. “What has it come to when people march on the church?” Blackmon asks.
6:31am: Cornel West (philosopher, political activist, social critic and member of the Democratic Socialists of America) walks to the altar to standing applause.
6:37am: “I don’t know about you, but I am who I am because somebody loved me,” West says. “We are who we are because somebody loves us.” West talks about injustice, stigmatization and terrorism. He says we’re here to fight spiritual blackout, which has been going on in America for 400 years, and warns about the dangers of thinking that American babies are more important than Pakistani babies, Canadian babies—and then at that, only certain American babies.
6:47am: “I didn’t come to Charlottesville to run my mouth. I came to go to jail!” says West. “This is not a time for [sunshine] protesters. This is a time for love warriors.”
6:55am: Reverend Winnie Varghese from New York walks to the altar and says, “The whole world watches you today.” A few minutes later, she tells the congregation that people all over the world are praying for Charlottesville, and that is a powerful thing.
When it comes to white nationalism hot spots, a place like Charlottesville, where 80 percent of voters chose Hillary Clinton in last November’s presidential election, seemed unlikely to top the list. Sure, our City Council voted in April to sell the statue of General Robert E. Lee, which angered members of the alt-right, but we certainly weren’t the first place in the country that decided to take down a Confederate statue—monuments in New Orleans, St. Louis, Louisville, Kentucky, and Austin, Texas, have been removed, and they are talking about doing the same thing in Richmond, Houston and Lexington, Kentucky. But something happened here that hasn’t occurred in those cities: Saturday’s deadly Unite the Right rally marked the third time since May that Charlottesville was thrust into the national spotlight courtesy of white nationalists who gathered in our town to protest the removal of the Lee statue.
On May 13, a group led by University of Virginia graduate Richard Spencer, who coined the term “alt-right,” converged here for a tiki-torch demonstration in Lee Park (recently renamed Emancipation Park), where protesters chanted “we will not be replaced” and “blood and soil,” a Nazi rallying cry. One of that event’s participants was local resident Jason Kessler, who made a name for himself late last year when he unearthed unsavory tweets made several years ago by Charlottesville Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy. Kessler, whom the Southern Poverty Law Center calls “a lonely dissenter in the Capital of the Resistance,” mounted an unsuccessful campaign to remove Bellamy from office, and when that failed, he turned his energy toward organizing the August 12 rally, calling May’s headline-grabbing torch-wielding demonstration “a fantastic first event.”
As a lead-up to Saturday’s protest, about 50 North Carolina-based Loyal White Knights of the KKK, clad in robes and carrying Confederate flags, came to town July 8 and gathered in Justice Park, where they yelled “white power.” The demonstrators were met by more than 1,000 counterprotesters, who surrounded the park and drowned out the KKK with shouts of “racists go home.”
Spencer has promised to be back, saying, “We are going to make Charlottesville the center of the universe. We are going to come back here often. Your head’s
going to spin how many times we’re going to be back down.” Kessler, also a UVA alum, promised “bigger and bigger events in Charlottesville.” After Saturday’s violence and chaos, which culminated in three deaths and dozens of injuries, let’s hope they change their minds.—Susan Sorensen
Sunrise service at First Baptist Church (Photos by Eze Amos)
7:23am: Clergy are asked to assemble for their silent march down West Main Street toward the Jefferson School and on to McGuffey Park. It’s a peaceful protest, Gathers says. “Be safe. Be mindful. Be vigilant. Look out for the brother and sister beside you.”
7:24am: Reverend Sekou tells the congregation that something is happening at the Jefferson School, and people are heading over to “hold space” for a bit. People begin whispering in the pews; nerves are palpable.
7:45am: Jason Kessler issues a statement calling for peace, and for those who “can’t even stand to hear us speak without resorting to violence to express themselves somewhere else.”
8:20am: Counterprotesters gather at McGuffey Park and chant, “No hate, no fear, white supremacy not welcome here.”
8:44am: A police motorcade drives across University Avenue, headed toward West Main. Two police cars have their lights and sirens on, one in front of and one behind two buses—one powder blue and one white.
Members of the clergy and attendees at First Baptist Church's sunrise service, including Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy, middle, march down West Main Street to Emancipation Park. Photo by Eze Amos
8:52am: The clergy walks in silence down West Main from First Baptist to the Jefferson School.
9am: Arm-in-arm, clergy members, including Cornel West, march solemnly down West Market Street. As they arrive at Emancipation Park, already lined with militia, they kneel before the heavily armed men and women in full military attire and begin to sing “This Little Light of Mine.”
9:18am: C-VILLE photographer Eze Amos is clobbered by a man wearing a Hitler T-shirt. Virginia State Police initially tell Amos they can’t do anything about it because they didn’t see it. Minutes later, they approach him and ask for a statement.
9:23am: Members of white supremacist group Vanguard America can be heard chanting “blood and soil” in the distance. Wearing helmets, white or black polos and khakis, the flag- and shield-wielding men march into Emancipation Park, where they change their tune to “You will not replace us.”
9:56am: “We’re here to keep the peace in case they can’t. And unfortunately they can’t,” says a member of the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia, which came to defend the First Amendment and Constitution, according to leader Christian Yingling, not because they’re sympathetic to white supremacists.
10am: League of the South members carrying white shields are lined up inside the barricade at Emancipation Park.
10:02am: Members of Virginia Students United have organized a musical protest against white supremacy/fascism/Nazis/KKK. Participants gather at the Bridge PAI with vuvuzelas, drums, cymbals, colanders and spoons, a saxophone, a trumpet, a trombone and a washboard, as well as a dog food bowl and a small pipe. One person brings a bucket and a piece of lumber, another brings a tambourine. There’s a gong and instruments to share. Someone mentions that wearing sunglasses can help prevent doxxing. A helicopter hovers overhead. Across the street, a few Belmont residents relax on lounge chairs on a front porch.
10:16am: An alt-right woman in Army fatigues shouts, “We do love!”
10:20am: Former U.S. congressman and recent gubernatorial candidate Tom Perriello says he’s home again for what’s become a summer tradition: protesting hate.
10:20am: Three state police officers wearing yellow vests escort a man away in handcuffs.
10:22am: Anti-fascist demonstrators carrying a “Fascist scum” banner arrive at Emancipation Park. And they’re angry.
10:26am: Alt-righters chant, “You…will not…replace us!” as clergy link arms in front of Emancipation Park.
10:27am: Chants of either “You will not replace us” or “Jews will not replace us”—it’s difficult to hear—from the right compete with “Nazi scum, your time has come” from the left.
10:29am: A Kekistan flag carrier who says he’s against “identitarian politics” is confronted by a protester. “How am I racist? Explain to me how I’m a racist,” the flag carrier says before the protester attempts to grab the flag out of his hands. “Don’t touch my shit!” the flag waver shouts during the scuffle. A Charlottesville policeman jumps the barricade from the parking lot on Market Street to intervene and pulls out his baton as he separates the two.
Under the gun
There were a lot of loaded guns in plain view in Charlottesville on Saturday—and many of the people carrying them weren’t law enforcement officials. Governor Terry McAuliffe told the New York Times Sunday morning that “80 percent of the people here had semiautomatic weapons. …You saw the militia walking down the street, you would have thought they were an army…[they] had better equipment than our state police had.”
We know Virginia generally allows open carry without a permit for those 18 years and older, but after what we witnessed on our streets August 12, we wanted a few more specifics. According to Section 18.2-287.4 of the Virginia Code, you’re not allowed to carry, in public, a rifle or pistol with a 20-round or larger magazine. Silencers and folding stocks are out, too. Also illegal: shotguns that carry more than seven rounds. But here’s the legal twist: these rules apply only to the state’s biggest cities: Richmond, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Newport News, and to Northern Virginia cities and counties such as Arlington, Fairfax and Loudoun, but not to Charlottesville and Albemarle County. In other words, it seems to be the Wild West ’round these parts.—Susan Sorensen
10:31am: “We don’t want a white state. We say no to racist hate,” is being chanted.
10:33am: A Black Lives Matter group walking with a banner that says “White racists afraid again…Smash white supremacy!” and signs, including “Cops and Klan go hand in hand” and “Jobs! Not racism!,” marches toward the park on Market Street. “What do we do? Stand up, fight back!” they chant.
10:34am: The few dozen people gathered at The Bridge practice chants and decide their favorites are “No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.,” “Fist up/Fight back” and “The people united can never be defeated.” They decide to scratch a “Whose streets? Our streets!” call-and-response chant because the white nationalists at the torch rally chanted it the previous night.
10:37am: Alt-righters march into Emancipation Park from the sidewalk in front of the Central Library. As the group pauses, Dan Harrison, pastor at Church of the Covenant in Lynchburg, offers water and orange Gatorade to the group. One man says, “Thank you, sir,” as he takes a bottle of water.
10:38am: More anti-fascists arrive on Market Street in front of the park carrying a banner that says, “Make fascists afraid again.” Alt-right response from park: “Fuck you, faggots.”
10:39am: Another group of counterprotesters links arms on the steps leading to Emancipation Park and sings “This Little Light of Mine.” “Stop protecting Nazis!” someone shouts.
10:40am: A group of white nationalists arrives at the southeast corner of Emancipation Park across from the Central Library and is not allowed to enter there. Instead, they must run the gauntlet of opposition on Market Street to enter the park on the southwest side at Second Street across from Hill and Wood Funeral Home. A single Black Lives Matter protester denounces them through a megaphone. Robert “Azzmador” Ray, who’s with the Daily Stormer, tells the woman to “put on a fucking burka” and calls her a “sharia whore.” Before he’s out of earshot, Ray tacks on, “Hitler did nothing wrong.”
10:44am: The Virginia Students United group starts to play its instruments and chant, “No Nazis, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.” as they walk over the Belmont Bridge, toward Justice and Emancipation parks. Some carry signs. People in cars honk their horns and hold up their fists in support. Devin Willis, one of the organizers of the musical protest, says, “This student march is coming out of the kindness of students’ hearts.”
10:45am: Eeww.Someone from Unite the Right hurls urine-scented brown liquid that hits reporters, including C-VILLE’s Lisa Provence, the Daily Progress’ Lauren Berg and the New York Times’ Sheryl Stolberg. The Progress recounts that other reporters deliberately are pepper sprayed.
10:50ish am: Shouts of “Fuck you, Kessler” indicate the rally organizer has arrived.
10:55am: Riot police assemble on a side street. A Standard Produce truck blocks much of the street; a Charlottesville police officer sits in the driver’s seat.
11am: Shield-carrying Traditionalist Worker partiers arrive, also on the east side of Emancipation Park where police do not allow them to enter. And oh look, the National Socialist Movement, aka neo-Nazis, makes it to the same wrong entrance to the park, swastika flags in tow.
11:02am: The musical protest group chants “Shut it down! Shut it down!” to the beat of a drum as it arrives in front of the Central Library.
11:03am: “Form up here!” calls an alt-right man along the stairs into Emancipation Park. “We’re facing right, stand here,” says another man with a shield to several others. A man in a black T-shirt and helmet, holding a shield, says, “Tell them to stop the pepper spray!” Drums are pounding in the background.
11:04am: The Daily Shoah podcaster Mike Enoch can’t get into the rally, and must go around.
11:06am: “Fuck black lives” says someone among the alt-right through a bullhorn.
11:07am: “You two, shields on the stairs,” an alt-right man calls out. “Shields, shields, shields up front!” other alt-right people are yelling. “Let’s go, shields up! Shields forward!” Some of the men with shields wear motorcycle helmets or improvised body armor. Water bottles and other small debris are being thrown from protesters at the alt-right, and some are thrown back.
The scene on Market Street in front of Emancipation Park as the alt-right groups attempt to enter the park. Photo by Eze Amos
11:08am: As water bottles are being hurled across Market Street, the scent of pepper spray is in the air.
11:10am: A drone hovers beside the Paramount Theater.
11:11am: Riot police move along the side of Central Library, opposite the park.
11:12am: A procession of alt-righters enters Emancipation Park. “Incoming!” someone yells. A man stumbles into the park and collapses at the top of the stairs, in obvious agony. His face is covered in some sort of substance. C-VILLE reporter Jackson Landers reaches out to give him water. Another man tells Landers, “Hold my flag.” “I can’t hold your flag,” says Landers, who gives him water. “It’s my right eye!” says the man, who turns out to be Chris Cantwell, the person who allegedly pepper sprayed protesters at Friday’s UVA torch procession, and has advocated the use of chemical weapons against liberals.
11:13am: More pepper spray and tear gas as the neo-Nazis converge with anti-fascists—antifas—on Market Street.
11:14am: As one of the white supremacist groups nears Emancipation Park, it walks through the group of musicians. A counterprotester gets close to one of the white supremacists, yells and points a finger at his face. The white supremacist swings his flagpole at her and strikes her. A few of the musicians intercede.
11:18am: Lots of stick-carrying alt-righters are unable to get inside the barricade on the east side of the park.
11:22am: “Watch out for piss bottles, bro!” a man in a black helmet says.
11:25am: A swastika-tattooed man from Charlotte, North Carolina, says he was hit with bear spray, “the worst.” An image C-VILLE tweets later racks up more than 8.5 million impressions.
11:27am: The crackling sound of a taser is heard at the edge of Emancipation Park near the stairs.
11:28am: “I’m gonna find a rock,” says one tall young alt-right man. He bends over and reaches under a bush, finds pieces of broken branches and flings them at the protesters before raising his middle finger.
11:28am: Virginia State Police request that Governor Terry McAuliffe declare a state of emergency, which he does. “It is now clear that public safety cannot be safeguarded without additional powers, and that the mostly out-of-state protesters have come to Virginia to endanger our citizens and property,” he says in a statement. “I am disgusted by the hatred, bigotry and violence these protesters have brought to our state over the past 24 hours.
11:29am: A thick white cloud of tear gas wafts in. People cough and cover their faces. The gas emanates from the left-wing, and drifts toward the alt-right.
11:31am: “Shields!” calls someone from the alt-right. More coughing, and some type of gas or spray comes into the park.
11:32am: White nationalists call for a medic. A man in a League of the South T-shirt who looks like its leader Michael Hill watches as a compatriot is doused with water. Counterprotesters on Market Street are affected by tear gas as well.
11:33am: “I don’t see hate over here on my side, I see hate over there,” says a black-clad alt-right man holding a megaphone and a flag pole.
11:34am: Two women on Market Street chant, “Where are the police? Where is our protection?”
11:37am: Police make the first declaration that the gathering is an unlawful assembly and the area must be cleared as water bottles sail through the air. A woman in the street shouts, “The violent ones are these fascist pigs, am I right?”
11:38am: As white nationalists attempt to move through anti-racists, they are walled up against a police car parked at the intersection of Market and Second streets. There is shoving among both groups as the alt-righters reverse course toward Market and enter Emancipation Park.
11:39am: Police continue to order the alt-whites out of Emancipation Park and into the street filled with counterprotesters.
11:39am: A thin line of dozens of alt-righters has formed along the edge of the park, some with shields up, others holding long poles.
11:40am: A tear gas canister of unknown origin goes off in the street. A protester picks it up and throws it at the alt-righters in the park. Seconds later, it is thrown back at the protesters.
11:40am: An all-black clad antifa spits at white nationalists carrying Confederate flags. Another with a wooden stick hits the shield of a white nationalist, who points the tip of the flag at the assailant and runs toward him.
11:40am: Leslie Scott-Jones welcomes people to the Art in Action event on the Champion brewery patio. She receives a text that says a state of emergency has been declared. The place is pretty quiet—there are bottles of water and boxes of snacks out. Some people sit on picnic tables; a DJ plays but there will be live music and other performances later, from local musicians like Keith Morris. Scott-Jones says, “As an artist, I have to manage the amount of negativity that comes into my life. I wanted to find another way to resist. I wanted to create something beautiful and positive in contrast to the hate that’s going on a few streets away.”
11:41am: Riot police line up on the Downtown Mall.
11:43am: Street fighting breaks out as white nationalists and neo-Nazis file onto Market Street. Counterprotesters’ sticks and alt-righters’ flags are being used to pummel. CNN shows a C-VILLE Weekly box being hurled on the corner of First and Market streets.
11:47am: Virginia State Police in riot gear line up on the north side ofEmancipation Park. Fighting continues around the park.
11:52am: City Manager Maurice Jones and interim Albemarle County Executive Doug Walker issue a declaration of local emergency, which allows them to request additional resources, according to a joint statement.
11:54am: Some of the alt-righters still inside the park, including Richard Spencer, push up against the state police line and get doused—twice—with a chemical agent. The melee in the street continues, as does the spraying of tear gas. Police continue to order, “This has been declared an unlawful assembly. You must leave immediately or you will be arrested.”
11:59am: Emancipation Park is almost entirely cleared out before the Unite the Right rally’s scheduled noon start time.
11:59am: A man in a white shirt runs toward the police barricades by the library, pursued by several people yelling, “Get out you little bastard!”
11:59am: A member of the militia tells a group of counterprotesters on the sidewalk, “You know what you also have as American citizens? The right to protect yourself. Let these nationalist cucks expose themselves for what they are and then stand your ground if you ever have to.”
More photos from the Unite the Right rally/counterprotest (By Eze Amos and Natalize Krovetz)
12:02pm: Alt-right attendees march east on Market Street toward the parking garage, where many of them have parked the large white vans carrying Richard Spencer, David Enoch and former KKK imperial wizard David Duke. They’re followed by members of Black Lives Matter and antifas. When they reach the parking garage, the white nationalists chase Black Lives Matter member Dre Harris and his friends into the garage, and tear down the wooden barricades to use them as weapons. Harris lies on the ground and tries to cover his head as he is beaten.
12:08pm: “We knew it was going to be a riot, fellas, stand strong!” shouts an alt-righter after the group exits the garage, coughing from pepper spray. An antifa approaches from the left side and hits an older man who is bleeding and clutching the side of his face and also carrying a Confederate flag. As the man falls to the ground, someone yells, “I just saw a Nazi go down!” County police officers, standing in front of the Charlottesville Police Department headquarters, approach to help the man up.
12:11pm: Wounded Black Lives Matter member Dre Harris, whose face and white shirt is smeared with blood, is taken to the porch of NBC29 across from the garage by his friends. “Fuck Charlottesville police!” someone shouts at the group of officers stationed in front of the police department.
12:16pm: Riot gear-clad police enter the garage to escort alt-righters out.
12:17pm: “Where’s the fucking ambulance?!” shouts one of Harris’ friends to the police officers. Harris suffers a concussion, an ulnar fracture, and receives eight staples in his head, according to a GoFundMe page established in his behalf. As of August 14, it has raised more than $106,000.
12:18pm: A group of people, mostly men, heavily armed and wearing camouflage, walk quickly down Water Street. A reporter gets pushed into a wall near the Southern Environmental Law Center window as they rush by. One of them yells, “We gotta go. Go, go, go, go, go!” as they run by. A man yells at them, “Fascists get out of my town!” At this, two of the camo-clad men turn around and point their assault weapons at him. The butt of one of the guns pushes up against C-VILLE Weekly reporter Erin O’Hare’s chest for about two seconds, until they lower their arms and keep running down Water Street, toward the Pavilion.
A woman sitting on the ground outside the law center says she came here to be a nurse with the militia—the aforementioned heavily armed individuals—“to keep the peace on both sides.” She says the militia are working with cops to “keep the peace,” and that “anyone with camo and guns is militia.” Most violence has come from the left, she says, “but there’s violence from both sides. I promise you that.” She says the militia is a “constitutional group,” the Three Percent.
12:40pm: A large group of counterprotesters have again gathered in Justice Park, but to their dismay, so has a line of riot cops. They scream at the police and chant, “This is what democracy looks like!” until the police, as a unit, leave the scene. The group cheers.
12:42pm: Two members of the clergy—Melanie Mullins and Winnie Varghese—plus David Walsh, a Princeton graduate student who researches far-right politics, sit on the low brick wall at the entrance to the Jefferson School. A group of white supremacists carrying flags walks up Fourth Street NW; they cross the street and walk through the Staples parking lot, when they see the threesome sitting on the brick wall. “That’s the power of the collar,” says Varghese, who came to Charlottesville in answer to Elaine Thomas’ nationwide call to clergy. “It’s really moving to me that people came to stand with us. It feels less isolating. These are international movements for freedom. …This is a historic day for this. These guys crossed the street to not have to deal with us.”
1pm: Unite the Right attendees regroup at McIntire Park, where the city had wanted Kessler to hold his event. Eli Mosley, who told the Cavalier Daily he’s “command soldier major of the alt-right,” is heard on the phone saying if he’s not allowed back into Emancipation Park to pick up “our stuff, I will send 200 men with guns to come get them.” A few anti-racists challenge a guy wearing knight’s armor. “Don’t talk to the animals,” says one of his compatriots. Many out-of-state attendees are leaving and heading home. When one is asked where he’s from, he replies, “The internet.” His friend says they’re from Philadelphia, and the circumspect male offers up that he’s six hours from Charlottesville.
Chandler Potter, from central New Jersey, wears a Confederate cap and offers a reporter a bottle of water. He says when he tried to leave downtown, he was attacked by “about 20 people” when he tried to get to his vehicle. Rally organizers, he says, “should have had a contingency plan.” The turn of events shows “a great amount of fear,” says Potter. “They did not want us here.” Despite the rally not taking place, “It was a great victory,” he says.
1pm: President Donald Trump weighs in on Twitter: “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”
1:17pm: “When the sun goes down I’m going to beat the shit out of one of these guys,” says an anti-racist in the middle of a group of counterprotesters and white nationalists gathered at the surface lot across from the Water Street parking garage. State police in riot gear form a line behind them. Another wave of state police waits on First Street.
1:20pm: Artist Sarah Jones sits on the floor near the door of Pearl Island/VU Noodles at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center, surrounded by paint and brushes. She’s been working on a mural for about a month now, and the image is a composite of images of the three cultures of the three chefs cooking in the space: Puerto Rican, Haitian and Vietnamese.
1:25pm: As three vehicles carrying white nationalists attempt to exit the elevated parking lot on Water Street, counterprotesters surround the SUV in the back of the line, throwing water bottles at the windows and kicking it. The driver almost runs into the car in front of him while trying to escape protesters, who run after them down the street.
1:33pm: Neo-Nazis with the National Socialist Movement march down Water Street. “Go home!” yells a driver from a passing car. “We are home!” a neo-Nazi responds. “No you’re not!” the driver counters.
1:37pm: Anti-racists walk down Water Street from the same direction the NSM men came from minutes earlier. “No Trump! No KKK! No Fascist U.S.A.!” they chant.
1:38pm: At McIntire Park, Eli Mosley warns the hundred or so who are gathered there that a state of emergency has been declared, which means they “can’t have weapons” and should leave the park in the next 10 to 20 minutes.
But first, attendees hear headliner Richard Spencer describe his ordeal of police dousing him with a chemical agent—twice. “I have never in my life been so outraged by my government,”he says. He decries the lack of police protection at Emancipation Park. “As I was coming in, these antifa communists assaulted us,” he says. Local police wouldn’t let him get to the platform to speak, which was behind the barrier, he says. “We have a permit.” When recounting his confrontation with the state police, Spencer says, “They looked like stormtroopers. They were in effect pushing us out of Lee Park toward the communists.” Adds Spencer, “I was standing my ground. Then I was maced in the face and in the chest by police.” No one helped him, he says, and police “forced us into a gauntlet.” He’s received death threats, he says, adding “They were endangering us.”
With parting shots at Mayor Mike Signer, who is Jewish, and Vice-Mayor Wes Bellamy, who is black, Spencer promises, “We are going to be back here.”
1:38pm: “Black Lives Matter!” shouts a large group of counterprotesters carrying signs, banners and homemade drums walking down Water Street. The group turns north onto Fourth Street.
1:40pm: James Alex Fields Jr., 20, an Ohio man and alleged Nazi romanticizer, drives a Dodge Challenger into about two dozen demonstrators on Fourth Street, killing Heather Heyer, 32, and injuring 19 others. He backs up over at least one person and speeds away. The crowd is in hysterics, and several bloodied people wait in the street for medical attention. “Somebody call a fucking ambulance,” a man screams while running away from the scene. Lost shoes and belongings are scattered everywhere.
On his last day of work at the Daily Progress, photographer Ryan Kelly, 30, captures an image of the Dodge Challenger as it plows into the crowd. The picture goes viral, with the Washington Post dubbing it, “The photo from Charlottesville that will define this moment in American history.” Kelly, who had been with the paper four years, tells the Columbia Journalism Review that if the car had come 20 seconds earlier, he would have been in the middle of the street with his back to it and not on the sidewalk, where he was when it sped by.
1:50pm: Protesters hold a large “Against White Supremacy” sign up to give some of the victims and people helping them privacy.
1:51pm: Clergy members link arms on Water Street in front of the accident to keep people from walking through.
1:52pm: David Duke and Mike Enoch sharea few words with their supporters at McIntire Park. Enoch rails against “white genocide” and the police “getting jerky.” He says, “We love white people. That’s why we’re here.”
Says Duke, “I believe today in Charlottesville is the first step in making a realization of what Trump alluded to in his campaign. This is the first step in taking America back.” Duke, too, promises to be back in Charlottesville.
1:54pm: Interior doors to the Jefferson School are locked with wire. Someone walks in through the Common Ground door and says, “Bad things are happening.”
2:02pm: Heena Reiter leads an Envisioning Peace event at Common Ground. She asks everyone in a circle to say their name and declare what they say “yes” to. People say: respect, unity, peace, peace, peace, kindness, acceptance, love, harmony, to the power of peace, to preserving and carrying on after today, compassion for the “other,” justice and hope.
2:33pm: A group of about a dozen people forms a prayer circle at the intersection of Water Street and Second Street SE.
4:10pm: “We are here today to be witnesses. There are people who will not believe that this is our reality in 2017. So it was important that peaceful people [show up],” says Emmetri Beane of the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia in the Jefferson School parking lot.
4:51pm: A Virginia State Police helicopter crashes in the woods near Old Farm Road in the Bellair neighborhood. Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen, 48, of Midlothian, and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates, who would have turned 41 August 13, of Quinton, die at the scene.
Just before 5pm Saturday, August 12, a Virginia State Police helicopter that had been part of the day’s surveillance crashed in the woods near Old Farm Road in the Bellair neighborhood. Both men on board, Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen and trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates, died at the scene. No details about the cause of the crash have been released.
Lieutenant H. Jay Cullen
The 48-year-old Virginia State Police officer of 23 years joined the aviation unit in 1999 and was promoted to be its commander last February.
He was an avid mountain biker living in Midlothian with a wife and two sons.
Governor Terry McAuliffe says he was very close to Cullen, who flew the governor and his family across the commonwealth for more than three and a half years.
“This is a devastating loss for their families, the Virginia State Police and the entire commonwealth,” McAuliffe said at a press conference. “These heroes were a part of our family and we are simply heartbroken.”
Trooper-pilot Berke M.M. Bates
Bates, who transferred to the Virginia State Police aviation unit in July, died the day before his 41st birthday. In his 13 years of service with the department, he was a former member of the state police Bureau of Criminal Investigation and part of Governor McAuliffe’s executive protection team for the past three years.
Bates, who lived in Quinton, played and coached hockey for the Richmond Generals, and is survived by his wife and twin son and daughter.
“The job he always wanted all his life was to fly for a state police group. He was selected for it about a month ago,” his father, Robert Bates, told the Daily News. “I just want everyone to know how great of a cop he was.”
Around 5pm: President Donald Trump says he’s been closely following events in Charlottesville. “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” he says. “On many sides.”
5:01pm: The Art in Action event, co-sponsored by Black Lives Matter Charlottesville and Champion Brewing Company and held at the brewery, is shut down for security reasons.
5:05pm: Speaking to a small gathering of people at the McGuffey Park People’s Action for Racial Justice event, hosted by Together Cville and the Center for Peace and Justice, Bob McGowan says, “It will take a long time to process the events we’ve experienced.” He says, “Our work going forward” is to “exorcise the demons of white supremacy that are in our lives…we need to live with each other in peace, dignity and respect.”
5:13pm: Nathan Moore, of Together Cville, says he’s been to many protests, but “this is the first where someone died.” Purple and yellow mums and some faux lilies, purchased that day from Don’s Florist on Ridge Street, are passed around in memory of the person who lost her life in the car accident [Heather Heyer’s name has not yet been released]. Antifa from againstfascism.org pass out flowers and invite people in the park to lay them together in a circle.
A woman named Barbie kneels in the grass, lights 20 white pillar votive candles purchased that afternoon from the Dollar Tree and places them in a circle around the mound of flowers.
5:29pm: “Remember what you saw. Remember what you felt when you looked those people in the eye,” says Montae Taylor, president of Old Dominion University’s chapter of the NAACP.
5:52pm: The Downtown Mall feels eerily quiet as businesses have closed, and alt-righters and counterprotesters have left.
6pm: Governor Terry McAuliffe, City Manager Maurice Jones, Mayor Mike Signer and Charlottesville Police Chief Al Thomas hold a press conference at the county office building. McAuliffe tells the “white supremacists and Nazis who came into Charlottesville today: Go home. You are not wanted in this great commonwealth.”
Signer says the hatred, intolerance and bigotry, including the torchlight march on the Lawn, are brought by outsiders whose ideas “belong on the trash heap of history.” Says Jones, “Hate came to our town today in a way that we had feared but we had never really let ourselves imagine would.” And Thomas says, “Outsiders do not tell our story.”
7:23pm: A Shebeen server, dressed entirely in black, walks outside, sobbing. She gasps for air, sits down on the smoker parked near the restaurant’s entrance and turns her head to the sky, still crying. Mascara runs down her face as tears drip from her brown eyes. She tells a C-VILLE reporter that her friend died today, and she had to find that out on Facebook. Hands shaking, she’s barely able to light a cigarette with a hot pink BIC lighter. She succeeds, then tries to call her mother. A Black Lives Matter 757 activist hands her a flier for a vigil at UVA’s Rotunda later in the evening. When she finally gets through to her mother, she howls between sobs, “Mom. Heather’s dead. Heather’s gone. She’s gone. She’s gone.”
8:15pm: Charlottesville City Council grants Chief Thomas expanded powers, which include the authority to enact a curfew.
9:12pm: President Trump sends out another tweet: “Condolences to the family of the young woman killed today, and best regards to all of those injured, in Charlottesville, Virginia. So sad!”
Late Saturday night: The FBI and the Department of Justice open a civil rights investigation into the deadly car crash that killed Heather Heyer.
Sunday, August 14
Around 1am: A local who asks that his name not be used is walking home in the Belmont area when a truck stops behind him. “A person pushed me to the ground and then stomped my face into the pavement,” he says. “These guys were in the back ready to pounce.” He says when he notifies police, an officer says there had been reports of other attacks from a similar vehicle. “I’m a little sore,” the man says. “It’s been awhile since I’ve had a beat down.”
10:03am: UVA students begin painting a green-and-white sign on Beta Bridge that will read: “Hate has no place here. We choose love.”
10:21am: In advance of the regular 10:30am worship service at First Baptist Church on West Main Street, deacon Kathy Matthew leads everyone who’s already there in prayer. Camera shutters click as the group stands in a circle, holding hands. Someone murmurs, “God is good. God. Is. Good.”
10:31am: Politicians arrive at the church, and they’re ushered into a reserved pew a few rows from the front. The group includes Mayor Signer and his wife, Emily Blout; Virginia Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam; Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring; Delegate David Toscano; Governor McAuliffe and Vice-Mayor Bellamy.
10:37am: “Turn to your neighbor and tell them, ‘I love you,’” Elder J. Boyd instructs everyone at First Baptist. “What you saw yesterday was not Charlottesville. There are good people here in Charlottesville…we work together.” He says that when people say “Virginia is for lovers,” it’s not about intimate love, but about brotherly love and compassion.
10:44am: Angelee Godbold leads the congregation in “Glory to His Name.” McAuliffe bounces and claps his hands along with the music. Camera shutters click between the notes.
10:57am: Elder Boyd stands at the altar and expresses, for the second time, his pleasure with McAuliffe’s statement “against bigotry and hatred,” and echoes the governor’s words: “Go home!” Then, Boyd turns his attention to other matters, including donations of baby supplies, visits to shut-ins and Bible study.
11:01am: Deacon Don Gathers greets first-time visitors to First Baptist and asks the media, who are sitting in pews toward the back and standing up in the balconies, to remember that this is the church’s weekly worship service and to respect the house. He invites them to return in the future.
“We’ve got to come about healing. There will be scars left in this community for many years,” says Gathers, adding that the only way to heal together is in unity, in Christ.
11:04am: The First Baptist congregation applauds as Northam comes to the altar to speak. He says his message to white supremacists and Nazis is, “You’re not welcome here in Charlottesville. Go home!” As a physician, he’s held a lot of babies, and “when you look into a baby’s eyes, you don’t see the hatred, the bigotry that we saw here yesterday…They learn it from somewhere.”
11:12am: The congregation applauds as McAuliffe approaches the altar. He asks for a moment of silence for the three people who died on Saturday, and says that the helicopter crash was “personal,” because Jay Cullen was his pilot for three years and Berke Bates was part of his protection unit.
The “white supremacists and neo-Nazis…they came here to hurt, no question about it,” McAuliffe says. He suggests they not only “go home,” but “get out of the United States. Your ‘patriotism’ is a disgrace to the men and women who wear the cloth of this country.”
Says the visibly moved governor, “We don’t like you, we don’t want you. Never come back.”
McAuliffe admits, “I’m more fired up than I’ve ever been! We stand on the shoulders of so many Americans…who fought against hate and bigotry.” He mentions Barbara Johns, the high school student who led her classmates in a strike to protest inferior conditions in April 1951 at Robert Russa Moton High School in Prince Edward County.
11:21am: McAuliffe, Toscano, Northam, Herring, Bellamy and the Signers leave. Most media leave with them—back pews and second-story balconies are suddenly nearly empty. This sends murmurs through the congregation. Later in the day, deacon Don Gathers notes that they left right before the offering.
11:42am: Tracie Daniels, a pastor and principal of Jackson-Via Elementary School, comes to the altar to preach. She reads from Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
“We’re stronger than we look,” she begins her sermon, and she invokes Martin Luther King Jr.
1:03pm: A plein air artist stands under a silver umbrella in a gravel lot on Garrett Street, working on a painting of the pink warehouse.
2pm: Jason Kessler begins speaking into a cluster of microphones in front of a broad semicircle of cameras, journalists and hundreds of onlookers and protesters in front of City Hall. His voice is completely drowned out by angry voices that call him a murderer, among other things. He has a wide radius of space of about 15 feet around where he is standing.
2:02pm: Radio IQ reporter Sandy Hausman approaches Kessler to hold her mic directly in front of his mouth in order to get broadcast-quality audio.
2:05pm: Reporter Hawes Spencer follows Hausman’s example and begins to inch closer with his voice recorder.
2:05pm: Chants of “Shame on you!” begin and continue for a full minute.
2:06pm: A black-clad male protester with both middle fingers raised at Kessler trails behind Spencer. Half a dozen people follow suit, encircling Kessler.
Activist Jeff Winder takes a swing at Kessler, who turns and runs through the shrubbery toward the street. Winder later tells the New York Times, “Jason Kessler has been bringing hate to our town for months and has been endangering the lives of people of color and endangering other lives in my community.”
A woman catches up with the fleeing Kessler and tackles him into the bushes. Another protester pulls at his jacket. Police descend on the scene and hustle Kessler into the station. A line of uniformed state troopers forms to block anyone from moving toward the parking lot in front of the City Hall Annex. They are reinforced by riot-clad officers.
Around the corner, on the side street to the police parking garages, members of a state police SWAT team carrying M4 assault rifles line up and block access from the Downtown Mall. An armored vehicle is parked in the street behind them.
2:08pm: Chants turn to “Nazis go home!” A man dressed in Chad fashion—a white polo shirt and black pants, with an undercut hairstyle—slinks along the side of City Hall with a camera bag and says, “You will not replace us.” A neon yellow sign in the crowd reads, “Heather’s blood is on your hands.”
2:21pm: One of the snipers standing on top of the Downtown Transit Center gives the other sniper a pat on the back.
2:28pm: Organizers visiting from Chicago with the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, offer a bullhorn to those who wish to speak outside the post office on Sixth Street. One man growls his message to Nazis: “Go. Home.” He mentions Heather Heyer, Jay Cullen and Berke Bates, and says, “This has gone too far” as he holds back tears.
2:33pm: Carl Dix, civil rights leader and co-initiator of RefuseFascism.org, takes the bullhorn. He says the Nazi/white supremacist attitude comes from the Trump/Pence administration. He mentions the Holocaust and says, “Don’t tell me that can’t happen in this country. It is up to us to end this nightmare for this country and our planet.” He urges everyone to vote in local and state elections.
2:55pm: “If it were black folks with tiki torches…the police would have beat them down to the ground,” a woman says through the bullhorn. “Yes, baby! Say it, baby!” someone yells.
“I just want this shit to stop,” says another woman, mentioning Freddie Gray and other victims of police brutality.
2:56pm: Robert K. Litzenberger, 47, of Charlottesville, is arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault for spitting on Kessler as he fled the press conference.
2:57pm: A woman using a bullhorn tells Charlottesville cops standing around a police car on Sixth Street,“If you want to be for us, you have to be for us.”
3:12pm: A man walks through the crowd blasting N.W.A’s “Fuck Tha Police.”
3:44pm: Two young men push a baby carriage full of bottles of water around. They offer water to the crowd, to police, to the press.
3:45pm: A woman encourages everyone to go out and vote and put six black men and women on Charlottesville City Council. The next speaker says, with a hint of despair, “Charlottesville will never have six black men and women on City Council.”
4:01pm: At the Fourth Street memorial site for Heather Heyer, a woman writes, “You are my HERO Heather. Thank you for being the FIRE FOR CHANGE! C’ville strong!” in chalk at the memorial.
4:05pm: Someone has added the word “hate” underneath the stop sign at the memorial. On the wayfinding sign on the side of the brick building, “Hate has no place here” is written in colorful paper block letters that cover some graffiti. Chalk messages on the ground include “Today we are all Heather” and “Charlottesville will stay outraged for you.” Marigolds formed in the shape of a heart occupy the middle of the memorial, and a pink butterfly balloon floats in the wind.
4:21pm: A group of about 30 people form a semi-circle and hold hands at the memorial.
4:26pm: About a dozen people, many wearing Serve C’ville T-shirts, pass out water and granola bars to the crowd.
4:34pm: A collective of six clergy members from various denominations kneel in front of the memorial and offer prayers for Heyer, Cullen, Bates and their families and friends.
4:36pm: A man with two small children in a stroller walks by the vigil. One of the children babbles and the dad hushes him, saying, “We have to be respectful right now.” A moment later, a group of young people walk away from the vigil and one sarcastically says, “Yeah, we’re gonna pray the Nazis away.”
4:55pm: A New York Times photojournalist asks local musician Keith Morris for a cigarette. Morris hands him an American Spirit as the reporter says he came to Charlottesville “to see the face of fascism” for himself.
4:56pm: A smell of incense wafts through the crowd at the memorial. It’s traced to two men sitting cross-legged on the sidewalk in meditation. One sports a fox tail and ears. A sign tells people to add a pinch of cedar to the coal to “release what energy needs releasing.”
5:20pm: A woman holding a “Free hugs” sign on the Downtown Mall says she can’t even remember how many people she’s hugged today. “Dozens. Dozens.”
TAKING A STAND
Support for the city following Saturday’s deadly Unite the Right rally has poured in from all over the world, including hundreds of Solidarity with Charlottesville events that were held nationwide on Sunday and Monday.
Many of the vigils honored the life of Heather Heyer, the local woman who was killed by a man who drove his car into peaceful counterprotesters Saturday afternoon. Other gatherings were put together to speak out against hate groups and push for the removal of Confederate monuments.
During a Monday evening “emergency protest” in Durham, North Carolina, a crowd tied a rope around the neck of a 15-foot uniformed Confederate soldier statue that has stood in front of the old Durham County Courthouse since 1924, and pulled it off its pedestal. In Portland, Maine, 400 citizens gathered Sunday in Monument Square to protest white supremacy, neo-Nazis, the Ku Klux Klan and President Donald Trump, while hundreds in Los Angeles rallied on the steps of City Hall to denounce white nationalism before taking to the streets and chanting “No Trump, no KKK, no fascist U.S.A.” Protesters have also marched to Trump Tower in New York, demanding the president more strongly condemn what happened in Charlottesville August 12.
Closer to home, people gathered Sunday evening on Fourth Street, where a memorial for Heyer continues to grow, and sang “Amazing Grace” and prayed near piles of flowers that have been laid in the area where she was killed.—Susan Sorensen
5:36pm: “This Land is Your Land,” by WoodyGuthrie, plays over the sound system at Rapture.
5:57pm: The mobile jazz cart man hands out purple and pink carnations to people eating dinner and walking on the mall.
6pm: The vigil for Heather Heyer continues into the night as hundreds of people gather around the memorial on Fourth Street to sing hymns, hug one another and remember the 32-year-old woman who was killed. “If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention” read purple shirts worn by Heyer’s friends.
Friends and family remember Heather Heyer (Photos by Eze Amos)