Charlottesville activists took the streets the night of Saturday, October 7 in a march for Community Defense Against All Fascism, in response to another ten-minute terrorist photo-op torch rally by Richard Spencer and his fascist followers.
At around 7:30p.m. Saturday evening, Richard Spencer and two dozen white supremacists walked down Market Street with lit torches. No one stopped them. They arrived at Emancipation Park – where the statue of Robert E. Lee is now covered in black tarp. Observers said national press were already set up in Emancipation Park waiting for them. After they got their photos and Richard Spencer made a speech, they all piled back into the Enterprise rental vans and the Charlottesville Police Department escorted them North on Route 29 into a hotel parking lot.
Charlottesville – America – you and your systems are deeply complicit in Nazi terror.
Why did no Charlottesville residents stop the Nazis as they marched down Market Street with torches? We must confront and disrupt fascism; we must not let our city be a platform for white supremacy.
Why did the national media provide this platform to white supremacy? The torch rally is a recruitment tool; the national media is signal boosting Nazis.
Why did the Charlottesville police provide an escort for the Nazis? We know the purpose of the police is to protect white supremacy; this is yet one more example.
But Charlottesville activists do not wait for police protection. Charlottesville is mobilizing. Community members headed downtown in rapid response to the Nazi torch rally. A group of clergy and other folks stood outside the synagogue, where an event was being held in observance of the Jewish holiday Sukkot.
Activists, students, and other community members gathered in Emancipation Park at 10pm. They marched through the downtown mall, up West Main Street, through the Corner, and to the house of UVA President Teresa Sullivan.
October 7 was the THIRD time Richard Spencer has brought torch-wielding Nazis to Charlottesville. His first torchlit rally was in Emancipation Park on Saturday, May 13. His second torchlit rally was on UVA campus on Friday, August 11, by the statue of racist rapist UVA founder Thomas Jefferson. That was the night a group of student activists with a banner reading “VA students act against white supremacy” stood at the statue to defend their campus and were beaten, burned, and maced by hundreds of Nazis. Allowing Nazi violence on UVA’s campus on August 11 sent the message that Nazi violence would be allowed the next day as well. And it was. The world watched in horror as Charlottesville was attacked.
On October 6, UVA student activists protested the Bicentennial celebration at the Rotunda in a powerful reminder that UVA is built on “200 years of White Supremacy.” When UVA students took the stage calling for accountability from their university, the police arrested them. When UVA alum Richard Spencer led another torchlit rally at Emancipation Park, the police gave them an escort.
The organic community protest Saturday night addressed all of these connections. The first chant of the community defense march was “Cops and Klan go hand in hand.” As the group walked through Charlottesville’s downtown mall, they chanted, “White silence is violence” and “Black lives matter.” Blocking traffic on West Main street, they continued: “No Cops, no KKK, no fascist USA”; “goodnight alt-right”; “who keeps us safe? we keep us safe!”; and “if we don’t get it, shut it down.”
Upon arriving at the home of UVA President Teresa Sullivan, the group called for revoking Richard Spencer’s UVA diploma. They also declared solidarity with the three students arrested the night before, protesting the UVA bicentennial.
Three police officers stood on the steps of the house facing the protestors. Chanting continued.
Undocumented Black Lives Matter.
Immigrant Black Lives Matter.
Trans Black Lives Matter.
Queer Black Lives Matter.
Disabled Black Lives Matter.
ALL Black Lives Matter.
“We protect each other,” an activist addressed the group. “It is us who keeps this community safe. It is not the police, who escorted Spencer with five squad cars all the way to Ruckersville.” The police do not keep us safe. We keep us safe.
The activists reiterated the Solidarity Cville demands:
1. Drop all charges against Veronica Fitzhugh.
2. Drop all charges against the 22 people arrested protesting the KKK on July 8, the 5 people arrested resisting white supremacists on August 12, and the 3 people dragged out of the August 21 city council meeting as the community took over.
3. Initiate immediate development of affordable housing for extremely low income people, and fulfill the “Positive Vision of Resident Directed Redevelopment” from the Charlottesville Public Housing Association of Residents.
4. Apologize publicly for police negligence to the families of Sage Smith, Faye Tinsley, and Quinn Woodfolk, and commit to an expansion of the investigations of Faye’s murder and Sage’s disappearance.
5. Cease the targeting of Black families by social services to send children into foster care.
6. End militarized police units like JADE (Jefferson Area Drug Enforcement) and its successors.
7. Stop discriminatory stop-and-frisk.
8. End money bail, and release people being held without bond before their trial.
9. Remove all confederate monuments.
10. Teresa Sullivan, Mike Signer, and all City Council must resign, because there is blood on your hands.
“We fight in solidarity with activists and community members who have been holding it down in Charlottesville all summer,” one speaker declared. “We celebrate the legacy of resistance in Charlottesville and throughout the South. We fight for Sage Smith. Say her name: Sage Smith. Black Trans Lives Matter.”
The group pushed forward onto the steps of Teresa Sullivan’s house. One person pointed out that femmes and women and trans people led the front lines. White men were called on to step up, to come forward. The group chanted and clapped and affirmed, “When you let the Nazis come, we come! We confront Nazis. We defend this community.”
Dozens of police units arrived from four different law enforcement agencies. The police declared an unlawful assembly and threatened arrest.
The last moments of the protest were community care in action. As folks turned to walk away, reminders were called out. First: “If you’re white, protect the black and brown bodies.” Also: “Make sure everyone is accounted for,” and “Leave with a buddy.” Individuals gathered on the sidewalk to make sure everyone had what they needed and could get home.
Charlottesville is mobilizing. We are defending our community from Nazi terror. We are taking care of each other to persist through threats from fascists and threats from the police. We will disrupt white supremacy, end racial oppression, and make reparations. We will because we must. Join us.