White supremacists go head to head with counter-protesters on Friday in Charlottesville about the removal of the statue of Robert E. Lee. The removal of this Confederate general caused an irreversible butterfly effect. On Friday night, the 11th of August, a group of about 250 white males marched with torches to the statue of Jefferson all the while yelling phrases such as “Jews will not replace us” and “Blood and soil”, which was a Nazi rally cry.
They were met with about 30 anti-fascist protesters who had locked arms around the statue of Jefferson. Monkey noises were aimed at the black students and the students chanted “all lives matter”. Soon enough, violence broke out. With only one university police officer, punches, kicks, and chemical irritants were shared until more police could intervene. Sadly, this was far from the end.
On Saturday, another rally started around 8 a.m. Many nationalists carried shields and clubs while chanting slogans. Some even carried pistols. Counter-protesters were also there yelling at rally-goers. Clergy members showed up, linking arms and singing “This Little Light of Mine” while the white supremacists yelled back “Our blood, our soil.”. The militia joined these clashing groups showing up with rifles and pistols. There was a concern with the guns in the mix, but they assured they were there to just keep the peace, but ultimately to no avail. With tension becoming thicker and thicker, soon enough another fight broke out. Bottles and fists flying, chemicals being sprayed, violence was everywhere and the police were not ready. They had to change into armor and figure out the game plan. About 30 minutes later, the police had finally succeeded in dispelling the protesters, groups leaving, but not without spitting insults at one another. As protesters scattered after the rally was split up a group of counter-protesters near the city’s downtown mall was targeted. James Alex Fields Jr. sped into the crowd then reversed injuring 19 people and killing one 32-year-old Heather Heyer. He will be charged with second-degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and failing to stop at the scene of the crime.
When asked what her thoughts are on the slogan “white lives matter” Ms. Salido, a Social Studies teacher at this school, replied, “My initial reaction is people who say this, aren’t understanding the history that leads up to Black Lives Matter.” Adding to this, in the end, some are trying to silence people by being the loudest and desensitizing the movement. White people have had power for so long, that this push for change has unsettled them because people are not ever really good with change. Ms. Salido also commented on if this could have been avoided. “You can argue the white nationalists have gained momentum since the election. People feel comfortable now expressing more extremist, exclusionary, and America first views.” The white supremacists have gained a voice, and one in a position of power at that.
Odin Spalinger, a sophomore, says “I think that we should all be able to learn from this that hatred won’t conquer hatred, it merely fans the fire. I think that if we really want to triumph over racism and sexism, inequality in general, it should be with compassion rather than anger and antagonistic behavior. Hatred will only ever spawn more hatred.” And is that not the truth? An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind, but at the same time, all of the people who have experienced bigotry and racism deserve to be able to stand up for themselves. It is really a fine line between self-defense and revenge. Some do not want to contribute to violence, but how can we expect people to let others walk all over them? We can not and we should not.
Another sophomore, Adia Beaulieu, says “I would love to think that this could have been avoided, but in all truthfulness, something like this was bound to happen sooner or later. We are all human and we all have flaws, and opinions that oppose each other.” We all need to understand this, everyone has different opinions, and that is exactly what they are, opinion, not fact. Once people try forcing others to believe as they do and act violently because of it, that is when chaos arises. Everyone has a right to an opinion, no matter if we agree with them or not, but it is a whole different situation based on how they act upon this opinion. We may get better by educating those around us and being the bigger person, but in the end, racism will still live just like stereotypes because it is based upon opinion.
This does not mark the end to these tragically violent outbursts. These events have been unfortunate and whether you believe they could have been avoided or not, happened. The best we can do from here on out is learn from this, educate those around us in a helpful way, and look out for one another
I am not trying to downplay the actions or thoughts of those who are racist and so on, but it needs to be expected that no matter how hard we wish the world was perfect and accepting of those who are different than us, we all know this will never fully happen.
After all, I personally do not agree with what those apart of white lives matter are representing, but as long as they are not trying to force it upon and hurting others with this opinion than I can live with it. Although, as a reminder, my say in this does not really count since I am white, so I have privilege.
By Sarah Jane Murphy
Image via Ryan M. Kelly