A diss to the police and a miles-long march through the streets

Students planned a new rally location when their original spot in front of the Rotunda had too many security measures for their liking. Photo by Eze Amos Students planned a new rally location when their original spot in front of the Rotunda had too many security measures for their liking. Photo by Eze Amos

And updated version of this story with additional photos can be found here.

Minutes before their rally was scheduled to begin in front of the Rotunda, UVA student activists dropped a banner that said, “Last year they came with torches, this year they come with badges,” and instructed hundreds of attendees to move their demonstration a few hundred feet over, where cops weren’t already waiting for them and where they wouldn’t have to pass through metal detectors.

“They are here to control us,” said Erik Patton-Sharpe into a megaphone, and the crowd repeated it back to him. “They are here to control us,” he said again, stomping his black combat boot on the pavement with every word.

It was the anniversary of the night that hundreds of white supremacists marched across Grounds, carrying lit tiki torches and chanting, “Jews will not replace us.” When they reached the Thomas Jefferson statue at the base of the Rotunda, they encircled it and a group of counterprotesters—mainly students and faculty—whom they then attacked with pepper spray and torches.

The victims have often said that night set the tone for the rest of the August weekend, when countless brawls between neo-Nazis and antifascists broke out in the streets and law enforcement stood by idly.

At their rally for justice tonight, students said some may think cops exist to protect, but they disagree. (All students C-VILLE interviewed declined to give their names, but organizers passed around a flier with their message.)

“What you see around you is not what we asked for,” it said, alleging that UVA administration forced them to plan the rally within the security parameters. “It is a betrayal of our ideals and our community.”

It also said, “The city and the university’s desire to control images and protect their brands has created a dangerous police state.”

By 7:20pm, riot cops lined up at the new rally location at Brooks Hall, and the activists began hurling a new chant at them: “Why are you in riot gear? We don’t see no riot here.”

Some went face to face with the law enforcement, while others advised them not to escalate the situation. As they settled down and the rally resumed peacefully, its attendees were again on the move.

They marched from outside the Rotunda to Lambeth Field, with a dozen first stopping to confront a “Nazi” in a Longwood University t-shirt and cowboy boots. By about 8:05pm, they had regrouped and decided on a march through the streets of Charlottesville.

They then paraded through town, chanting and cheering as people came out of their homes and businesses to clap along or record the chaos on their cellphones. A few miles later (they took the long way), they had arrived on the Downtown Mall, and as cops in reflective vests began to line up on Market Street, the activists decided to call it a night.

And to make sure everyone in the group was on the same page, they shouted their plan: “Come back tomorrow morning.”

This is a night-of dispatch, and it will be updated with photos, details and more context.

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