Moved by last weekend’s violence in Charlottesville, Va., demonstrators gathered in Marshall Park Saturday night for a vigil billed as a call to action to combat white supremacy.
The event, led by the group Charlotte Uprising, came a week after violence erupted at a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, where a 32-year-old woman died after a car rammed into a group of counter-protesters, and two state police officers were killed in a helicopter crash.
In Charlotte, Saturday’s event was designed as a place for people to mourn those killed and injured in Virginia, and create a space for others to think of ways to fight against what they see as white supremacy on a local level.
The rally started around 8:20 p.m. An organizer of Saturday’s vigil, Ash Williams, said at the start, “Get your candles out and your hearts ready.”
Williams spoke out against white supremacist violence, and said Heather Heyer, who was killed in the Charlottesville violence, will never be forgotten.
Williams also called for all monuments that celebrate white supremacists and the Confederacy in North Carolina should come down.
“Believe us when we say, ‘We will win,’ ” Williams said.
Another speaker said, “When black lives matter, all lives matter.”
Another speaker said, “We all have the right to live.”
A white speaker named Jen focused on how white people can help fight white supremacy. “Learn how to follow,” she said.
Signs at the rally included, “White silence is violence,” “White supremacy fuels police violence,” “Fascists bound to lose,” and “No more white fragility! Your privilege is showing!!!!”
Earlier in the day, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and the city of Charlotte debunked a rumor that the KKK was also staging a march in uptown.
It was the second vigil in uptown following the events in Charlottesville, culminating a week filled with nationwide rallies condemning racism, Naziism, the “Alt-right” and white supremacy.
Williams said before the event that “some of us were really disappointed with how last week’s event turned out. Tonight is a call to action. Part of how we can move forward is disrupting the narrative that everyone gets along in Charlotte.”
Williams also said they want white people to remember white supremacy might not look like the Klan — “it might look like them.”
A focus on statues
In addition to the rallies, the violence in Charlottesville sparked nationwide debates about the removal of Confederate monuments. Charlottesville’s plans to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a downtown park drew the attention of the white nationalists, white supremacists and others.
Several Confederate objects were vandalized throughout the country in the wake of Charlottesville, including in Cornelius as well as in Durham, where a group of protesters were arrested after they tore down a statue of a Confederate soldier.
Williams said charges should be dropped against the group that brought down the statue.
The events in Durham continued through Friday when hundreds of protestors held a counter-protest in anticipation of a rumored KKK march that ultimately never materialized.
On Saturday, Duke University removed a statue from its chapel of Robert E. Lee after the statue was vandalized earlier in the week.
President Donald Trump received heavy criticism after his remarks on Charlottesville, when he claimed there was blame “on both sides” for the violence. Critics said Trump created a false equivalence between the white nationalists at the rally and the counter-protesters.
LaVendrick Smith; 704-358-5101; @LaVendrickS
Jane Wester; 704-358-5128; @janewester