CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. – More than 600 activists and students from the University of Virginia gathered on Saturday in Charlottesville to express their rejection of white supremacism, almost one year after neo-Nazi protests left three dead.
“We say enough to racism. Support for white supremacist movements persists; we need to organize ourselves always to continue fighting this scourge,” said one of the student organizers of the demonstration who asked to be quoted under the pseudonym of Sebastian.
The protest was scheduled to take place in a plaza on the university campus in Charlottesville in honor of former US President Thomas Jefferson (1801-1809), which was the site one year ago of a march in which white supremacist groups carried torches and chanted slogans.
However, the local and state police surrounded the area and installed a robust security system with metal detectors to control entrance to the site, which caused the demonstration to move to another area of the campus.
“We decided to change places because it was not safe for us or for our community and it would have been a betrayal of our ideals. They wanted us locked in a cage, and that will not happen,” Sebastian said.
Thus, more than 600 people, according to organizers’ estimates, marched around the university campus shouting anti-racist slogans and carrying placards with messages condemning white supremacy.
Many of the participants of this peaceful demonstration already met Saturday morning at the same university to remember the fatalities of a year ago and highlight the importance of inclusion within their communities.
The president of the University of Virginia (UVA), James Ryan, acknowledged in a speech that his own institution should work for the sake of “diversity, tolerance, equity and inclusion” so that events such as those that occurred almost a year ago “never” be repeated.
The protests in Charlottesville, which became a symbol of racial tension in the US, occurred on Aug. 12, when white supremacists marched through the city in protest against the withdrawal of a statue of Robert E. Lee, a general of the Confederate side during the civil war.
After exhibiting fascist symbols for hours, a neo-Nazi protester rammed his vehicle into a crowd participating in an anti-racist counter-march, which ended the life of a woman, Heather Heyer, and injured another 19 people.
Two policemen died in a helicopter accident when they came to quell the protests.