In brief: Surviving the anniversary, unfinished A12 legal business, another contender, and more

First Baptist Church was the scene for August 12 reflection and moving forward—as it was two years ago.
Amy Jackson First Baptist Church was the scene for August 12 reflection and moving forward—as it was two years ago. Amy Jackson

Forward together

It was a full house at First Baptist Church on West Main Street on August 12, as a diverse crowd gathered for an interfaith service. “It fills my heart to see the pews filled like this,” said deacon Don Gathers. “We’ve come together not because of what happened, but in spite of it.”

A promised appearance by several presidential candidates fell through, after Cory Booker returned to New Jersey to deal with a water crisis, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who had asked to speak at the service but been denied, canceled at the last minute.

The service, which echoed similar gatherings held at the church after the violence in 2017 and on the first anniversary last year, was full of music, prayers, and reflection. It also featured testimony from August 12, 2017, survivors and faith leaders.

Activist Tanesha Hudson, a Charlottesville native, said activists of color had sometimes been left behind, and urged everyone to put action behind their conversations. “The world is watching Charlottesville, so how we recover is going to lay down the blueprint for how the world recovers.”

Marisa Blair and Courtney Commander, who were with their friend Heather Heyer when she died, said the anniversary had been harder than expected, but Blair said she wanted to talk about love. “Be kind. Be gentle. You don’t know what anyone else is facing.”

Presbyterian leader Jill Duffield spoke about living in Charleston, South Carolina, when a white supremacist gunman murdered nine people at the Emanuel AME church, but said it had taken the events in Charlottesville to make her understand the prevalence of white supremacist violence.

And Rabbi Tom Gutherz, of Congregation Beth Israel, addressed the long history of anti-Semitism, calling it “the glue that holds white supremacy together.” The son of a Holocaust survivor, he acknowledged that Jewish people in America have also been privileged. “I may have been surprised,” he said of the violence in Charlottesville, “but African Americans have always known it.”

He exhorted the audience to “be a resister, and not a bystander,” and said, “I believe that we will find a way forward together.” 

Clockwise from top left: Don Gathers, Sarah Kelley and Michael Cheuk, Tanesha Hudson, Tom Gutherz, Marissa Blair and Courtney Commander, and Jill Duffield were among those who spoke at First Baptist Church August 12. Amy Jackson

Quote of the week

“You literally have to love the hell out of people.”Marissa Blair, survivor of the August 12, 2017, car attack

In brief

Kessler refiles

Unite the Right organizer Jason Kessler took to the federal courts—again—on the second anniversary of the deadly rally in Charlottesville to sue the city and its officials for allegedly violating his First Amendment rights in August 2017. Kessler and co-plaintiff David Parrott claim police allowed a heckler’s veto to suppress their exercise of free speech by not stopping the fights that led to an unlawful assembly.

Hudson sues, too

Another civil suit was filed August 12, this one by local activist Tanesha Hudson. The lawsuit claims Hudson was denied her First, Fifth, and 14th Amendment rights when she joined Jehovah’s Witnesses counterprotesting at the Unite the Right rally. She’s seeking $400,000 in damages.

Fourth Street petition

City resident Aileen Bartels wants the mall crossing at Fourth Street closed and is circulating a petition to do so, a move unpopular with many downtown businesses, NBC29 reports. Bartels, whose petition had 325 signatures at press time, contends the crossing is a “serious safety hazard” for pedestrians on the mall, and notes the notoriety of the place where James Fields drove his car into a crowd, killing Heather Heyer and injuring dozens.

Another challenger

A UVA doctor will run against Denver Riggleman for the 5th District congressional seat. Cameron Webb, who practices and teaches at UVA, lives in Albemarle. He says he’s going to focus on improving access to affordable health care. He joins R.D. Huffstetler and Fauquier lawyer Kim Daugherty in seeking the Dem nomination.

Screwdriver killing

A jury found Gerald Francis Jackson, 61, guilty August 7 of voluntary manslaughter in the slaying of his neighbor, Richard Wayne Edwards, 55, in his Cherry Street apartment. A jury recommended a sentence of 10 years in prison.

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Kessler: *talking to his friends about A12* – “We’re recruiting an army for the battle of Charlottesville! LETS CRACK SOME SKULLS”
Kessler: *Two years after A12* – “I think the police should have done more to prevent violence at the rally I planned and invited violent white supremacists to, and all the violence I planned for and encouraged isn’t my fault”