Charlottesville: The Lead Up and How It Unfolded ⋆ American Lens

Charlottesville: The Lead Up and How It Unfolded

A week ago today, the “Unite the Right” rally that led to the death of one woman and injuries to 19 others took place in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While Charlottesville has been restored to peace for its residents. The same cannot be said for the nation’s citizenry in other states as vandalism of confederate statues, monuments and landmarks has followed in multiple states.

The exchange of violence and vitriol that day between white supremacists/neo-nazis and Black Lives Matter/Antifa was then transformed into a non-stop barrage of verbal assaults, accusations and threats on social media.

Charlottesville Timeline

March 2016
Charlotte City Councilor and Vice Mayor, Wes Bellamy, organized a rally in Lee Park to call for the statue’s removal. Bellamy would come under fire later that Fall for cringe-worthy slurs of a homophobic, sexist, anti-white nature in his tweets. Bellamy would resign from a local school board after this language is picked up on by national media following the violent Charlottesville events.

February 2017
The Charlottesville City Council votes to remove a statue of Confederate war hero General Robert E. Lee.


April 2017
A judge rules that the statue can be moved and the park renamed, however the statue may not be moved for 6 months.

May 2017
A group called the Pro Monument Fund files a lawsuit to stop the removal of the Lee statue. The group asserts that the city violated a state law that protects war memorials. The suit also alleges the city violated the terms of the deed in which the donor, Paul Goodloe McIntire, granted the memorial to the city.

June 2017
The plaque located at the Robert E. Lee statue describing “Lost Cause” and “Confederate Heroes” is officially removed by the city.

July 2017
Robert E. Lee Park is renamed to Emancipation Park.

Thursday, August 10th, 2017
The city of Charlottesville attempted to get the rally’s venue changed due to the size of the expected crowd.

Organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally, Jason Kessler, files a federal lawsuit against the city of Charlottesville, Virginia over the city moving the white nationalist demonstration from Emancipation Park to McIntire Park.

Friday, August 11th, 2017
Kessler wins his suit. A federal judge rules the Saturday event is to be held in Emancipation Park.

Governor McCauliffe urges citizens who planned to attend the rally on one side or the other to “make alternatives plans.”

That evening, hundreds of white nationalists, some carrying tiki torches, showed up at the University of Virginia in advance of the Saturday rally.

Their chants included phrases such as “white lives matter,” “you will not replace us,” and the Nazi mantra “blood and soil.”

The mayor of Charlottesville condemned it on Facebook.

Mayor Mike Signer said the display as a “cowardly parade of hatred, bigotry, racism, and intolerance march down the lawns of the architect of our Bill of Rights.”

Earlier in January, Signer had posted to Facebook that Charlottesville was the “capital of the resistance.

Saturday, August 12th, 2017 – Day Of the Rally

The rally was scheduled for 12 noon, however attendees and protesters began filtering into the park as early as 8:30 a.m.

By 10:30 a.m., fights had begun to break out.  Police do not intervene.

Just before 11:00 a.m. white supremacists and Antifa surged into the area around Market street. Both sides were armed with sticks, shields, helmets and wooden clubs.

Several videos pop up on Twitter showing fights breaking out between the two groups. Again, police do not intervene.

Reports of Antifa spraying the white nationalists with urine and chemicals like pepper spray is reported.  Balloons filled with ink and paint, as well as rocks and bottles, were reported to have been thrown.

Around 11:35 a.m., police declare an “unlawful assembly” in Emancipation Park.

An hour later, Governor McAuliffe declares a state of emergency as violence has overtaken the venue.

Between noon and the announcement of the state of emergency, protesters and march goers have devolved into skirmishes both on the venue grounds and along streets adjacent to the venue. Some of them ended up migrating towards McIntire park a few blocks away.

In a parking structure next to the Charlottesville Police Department, a black man was violently attacked by several of white nationalists.  20 year-old Deandre Harris was brutally beaten resulting in a broken wrist and needing eight staples for his head wounds.

The Daily Caller released exclusive video of the beating. Warning – the content is graphic.

At 1:19 p.m., President Trump tweets condemnation of the hate on display and called for unity.

At around 1:40 p.m., a car speeds up one of the streets near the venue, striking dozens of people and killing one woman. That woman would later be identified as 32 year-old Heather Heyer.

A reporter from the Daily Progress takes two iconic photos of the attack.

Ryan M. Kelly, Daily Progress - Charlottesville
Image: Ryan M. Kelly, Daily Progress


Crash - Ryan M. Kelly, Daily Progress - Charlottesville
Image: Ryan M. Kelly, Daily Progress


3:30 p.m. – President Trump gives a brief video statement.

His statement is widely criticized for not naming the white supremacists specifically as the origin of the violence or the car attack that had occurred hours earlier.

In particular, the President is slammed for a portion of his speech where he said there was “violence on many sides.”

But we’re closely following the terrible events unfolding in Charlottesville, Virginia. We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides, on many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama, this has been going on for a long, long time. It has no place in America. What is vital now is a swift restoration of law and order and the protection of innocent lives. No citizen should ever fear for their safety and security in our society. And no child should ever be afraid to go outside and play or be with their parents and have a good time.

President Trump would issue a second statement on August 14th, with a portion naming the perpetrators.

Racism is evil, and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans. We are a nation founded on the truth that all of us are created equal. We are equal in the eyes of our creator, we are equal under the law and we are equal under our constitution. Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry, strike at the very core of America.

Around 5 p.m, it is reported that a police helicopter has crashed nearby.

Two officers were killed and were identified as Lt. H. Jay Cullen and Trooper-Pilot Berke M.M. Bates. Their deaths are attributed to the Unite the Right event by media outlets after the National Transportation Safety Board states that the flight was supposed to provide a video feed of the situation on the ground.

At 6:35 p.m., the Charlottesville police chief confirms a suspect who mowed down a crowd with his car is in custody. He says that the crime looks to be “premeditated.”

In addition to the arrest of the driver, Court documents which were later released list the arrests of Jacob Smith, arrested for assault and battery after punching a reporter in the face. Also arrested for disorderly conduct after throwing things into the crowd was Troy Dunigan. A third arrest was made for carrying a concealed weapon by one James O’Brien.

By 9:45 p.m., law enforcement announces the name of driver of the vehicle that plowed into the crow with his car and had been arrested.  James Alex Fields is named as the perpetrator.

Sunday, August 13th

Various vigils for the wounded and for the woman killed are held around the country and in Charlottesville.  Several of these vigils turn violent, as was the case in Seattle, Washington.

In addition to vigils, speeches of “solidarity” were given by known North Carolina radical Qasima Wideman.

Wideman is known to be affiliated with the Youth Organizing Institute, Black Lives Matter, Moral Monday, Durham Solidarity Center and the communist World Workers Party.

Wideman’s bio at Youth Organizing Institute states that she’s, “the mixed-up, Muslim genderqueer poet child of two biracial parents, struggling through the confusion of the multiple diasporas, migrations, and class realities that have shaped their family and experience.”

Wideman was the World Workers Party keynote speaker in 2013.  Four World Workers Party members were arrested this week for toppling a confederate statue in front of the Durham Courthouse.

The Man Who Organized Unite The Right

Also on Sunday, the organizer of the Unite The Right event, Jonathan Kessler,  attempted to hold a press conference outside the Charlottesville City Hall.

Kessler started to speak and said that he wanted to, “tell the story of what happened before the narrative continued to spin out of control.”

Kessler was shouted down by the crowd that had gathered shouting “Shame! Shame!” Many members of the crowd shouted out, “A woman is dead!” and “You are responsible!”

Chaos followed with protesters breaking through the line of reporters on site and seizing control of the microphone.

Several protesters physically assaulted and then chased Kessler from the podium. Kessler ran towards the police line, but the police did not intervene until one protester nearly threw Kessler to the ground.

One man was arrested for assaulting Kessler. Robert K. Litzenberger, 47, of Charlottesville was charged by Charlottesville Police with misdemeanor assault and battery after a trooper saw him spit on Kessler.

Unconfirmed rumors have circulated that Kessler was an Occupy Wall Street member and supporter of President Obama.

Monday, August 15th, 2017

The Justice Department announces they are expanding their hate crime investigation beyond the driver, James Fields.  Attorney General Jeff Sessions has announced late on Saturday that the DOJ and FBI would be investigating Fields’ actions as domestic terrorism and as a hate crime.

President Trump gave a second statement.

Shortly after President Trump’s press conference calling out white supremacists and other hate groups, Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer gave a statement.

“Thank you, President Trump, for those words of comfort and for denouncing those who promote violence and hatred,” said Bro.  “My condolences, also, to the grieving families of the two state troopers and quick recovery for those injured,” Ms. Bro said.

The same day, James Alex Fields has his first court hearing.

The Monster Who Mowed Down People With His Car

James Alex Fields, age 20 from Maumee, Ohio was charged with one count of second degree murder, three counts of malicious wounding, and one count of hit and run attended failure to stop with injury.

According to a Washington Post article, a former history teacher of Fields’ said that Fields was an admirer or Adolph Hitler and was obsessed with nazis.

Fields’ Victims

The woman killed was 32 year-old Heather Heyer, who was a paralegal at the Miller Law Group. Heyer grew up in Ruckersville and was a graduate of William Monroe High School.

Heather Heyer - Charlottesville
Heather Heyer

“She was an outspoken, outgoing, determined and passionate individual; and had a special regard for social injustices and especially those concerning race relations,” Heyer’s obituary reads.

A memorial was held for Heyer on Wednesday, August 16th.

Antifa showed up to the memorial with purple shields, pink baseball hats and matching bats. They claimed they were there in case any white supremacists showed up’.

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