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Shout, Pray, Resist: The Neo-Nazis Are Coming to Charlottesville

charlottesville clergy council counterprotest against neonazis
By Keith Alan Sprouse, used with permission

I tend to forget that people outside of Virginia have better things to do than stay up to date with Charlottesville news.

But when the news is that hundreds (at least 400, maybe more) Neo-Nazis of various stripes and violence levels are planning to protest at a downtown park in an attempt to "Unite the Right" against diversity, intermarriage, immigration, and the equal rights of people of color, it's hard to believe the message isn't being spread far and wide. If anything is news, this is it.

The "Unite the Right" rally was conceived by local (UVa grad) Jason Kessler, a white supremacist who lost his job at a conservative newspaper a few months ago when they realized he was a racist. Since then, apparently he's had nothing better to do than sue our only African American City Councilman for "racism" (the case was dismissed); invite neo-Nazi Richard Spencer to town (also a UVa grad) for a torch lit protest against the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue downtown (City Council voted to remove it earlier this year with widespread public support); assault and intimidate activists and people of color on the city's outdoor pedestrian mall; invite the KKK to protest in early July; and now, rally motorcycle gangs, neo-Nazis, "proud boys," and all sorts of similarly hostile groups to our town of 40,000 this weekend.



According to those who have pored through forums, promotional websites, and twitter feeds, the Unite the Right folks are looking for violence. More specifically, they're hoping to rile up counter protesters to start a fight so that they look like the nonviolent ones, the good guys. This is the first national effort to build a united network of racist, homophobic, misogynist, antisemitic hate groups that can begin to exercise greater political power.

Richard Spencer, in an interview earlier this year, claimed that Donald Trump was helping his movement gain traction, but more recently, he and his ilk have been disappointed by Trump's willingness to embrace traditional conservative perspectives, which, at least in part, is why they think it's time to build a movement.

The event in Charlottesville will not be a one-off. This is only the beginning.

charlottesville clergy council counterprotest against neonazis
by Keith Alan Sprouse, used with permission

The good news is that the people of Charlottesville are prepared to resist.

Local leaders are expecting thousands of counter protesters from all over the country to attend Saturday's event, including hundreds of faith leaders like Cornel West and Traci Blackmon. The Charlottesville Clergy Collective, an interfaith social justice network, has joined forces with SURJ, Black Lives Matter, the Jefferson School (a local Black History & Culture organization), and more to ensure that counter protesters have access to safe spaces, training sessions, and community events.

The fact of the matter is that we are in danger.

The Neo-nazis will be armed. "Security" hired for the event is a motorcycle gang with a history of violence. Some groups have already put a hit list out on prominent local leaders, including our mayor. There's already infighting occurring between the various neo-Nazi groups. The city still hasn't decided whether or not they're going to close down surrounding roads, which may cause confusion and frustration for counter protesters and locals just trying to get through town. Crowds are unpredictable. Angry crowds even more so. The president of UVa is in liability-prevention mode because she doesn't want another student dying a violent death (since I've been here, one student was killed by a serial killer and another, more recently, by the North Korean state).

We have no idea what to expect, but we are prepared to resist. We are prepared to sing and march and pray. We are prepared to show the world what it means to wage love.

I ask for your prayers, your thoughts, your support, your good vibes. I'll take anything. Because when I learned about the Civil Rights Movement in school, I always asked myself what I would have done, and now I have to answer.

It's a crazy world we're living in and we need all the love we can get.

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If you're in Charlottesville, you can learn about counter-protest events here and get resources on the Charlottesville Clergy Collective home page.

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