A huge wave of anti-racist protest is sweeping through the U.S. in determined response to events in Charlottesville, Va. A “Unite the Right” gathering of a few hundred armed white supremacists, Ku Klux Klan units and neo-Nazis seized public space there in a torchlight parade on Aug. 11 and the next day attempted to occupy Emancipation Park, previously named Lee Park after Confederate General Robert E. Lee.
The white supremacists were met and pushed back by an anti-racist crowd of thousands. Young queer people of color were the leadership in the call to action. They were joined Aug. 12 by a wide range of people who understood the immediate mortal danger that the rise of white supremacists pose to people of color, immigrants, Muslims, Jews, women, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities and others. As the crowd demonstrated, one of the Nazis assaulted the marchers with his car, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring many others.
Within 24 hours, over 700 “Solidarity with Charlottesville” demonstrations were posted on the Vox Media website. Many of these took place over the weekend, from a quiet candlelight vigil in West Virginia to rallies all over the state of Wisconsin. (wibailoutpeople.org)
A rousing protest in Syracuse, N.Y., led by Black Lives Matter brought hundreds out at a local site where an 1851 action by thousands of abolitionists freed a local African-American man being dragged back into enslavement by federal marshals.
In Cleveland, over 300 people gathered to say, “NO to white supremacy!”
In Brooklyn, N.Y., 400 people heard a speaker from Peace Action of New York connect the racist violence in Virginia to U.S. attacks on Syria and north Korea.
Thousands of people came out to demonstrate at Trump Tower in New York City on Aug. 14, enraged at the alliance of President Trump and his administration with these reactionary forces.
A Charlottesville protester, Lee Patterson of Baltimore, spoke to the deep-rooted reasons for growing militancy when he told Workers World: “Today we saw the bare face of capitalist white supremacy. We believe that today is the time to stand up against racist terrorists that come from the capitalist system.” Here is a sample of such actions, which continue to grow.
A crowd of 200 people gathered at Philadelphia City Hall on Aug. 12 for a vigil commemorating the victims of fascist violence. It was somber as Philly R.E.A.L. Justice, Workers World Party, Refuse Fascism, the Industrial Workers of the World and other local organizations highlighted the trajectory that led to the day’s tragic events. The Philadelphia vigil was organized by Philly Socialists and the local Socialist Alternative branch.
Most speakers agreed that the time is now to double-down on organizing. After an hour there, the crowd took to the streets, walking north on 15th Street and then down the Broad Street off-ramp onto eastbound Interstate I-676. With absolutely no police interference or presence, activists marched on the highway between two exits, then got off and dispersed.
— Photo and report by Deandra Patrica
A demonstration was held in Columbus, Ohio, on Aug. 13 to show solidarity with those who were attacked by fascists at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville. Several hundred socialists, communists and other central Ohio activists marched from Goodale Park to the steps of the Ohio Statehouse.
There, a rally and vigil were held to commemorate the life of Heather Heyer, who was martyred when a fascist intentionally rammed the crowd with his vehicle, and to honor the many others who were injured in that attack. Several members of local chapters of socialist and communist organizations delivered impassioned speeches on the necessity for those on the left to organize and fight back against the rising tide of fascism and white supremacy.
— Report by Josh Link
Hundreds came out in Atlanta on Aug. 13 to a Charlottesville solidarity event called by All Out ATL. In 2016 this mix of antifa-aligned groups initiated a demonstration against a Klan gathering at Stone Mountain.
The protest gathered at Troy Davis Park, so named by the community for an African-American man murdered by the state in 2011. After speeches, including a class-conscious, anti-racist talk by Dawn O’Neal, the march stepped into the streets, 1,000 strong. Workers World carried the banner: “Smash White Supremacy! Fight Racist Terror! Black Lives Matter!”
The target of the march was Piedmont Park and its racist statute celebrating the end of Black Reconstruction in the South. The statue was promptly defaced, with no reported arrests.
— Report by Dianne Mathiowetz
Residents of the most diverse city in the U.S. came together in solidarity with those attacked by far-right racists in Charlottesville on Aug. 12. Houstonians of all nationalities, genders and immigration status stood together to denounce the murder of Heather Heyer and pledged to fight the right wing in Texas.
Speaker after speaker condemned the racism of the alt-right, demanded an end to their terrorism, and stood up for undocumented people, women’s right to choose, and an end to the anti-transgender “bathroom bill” that hate-filled Texas legislators are currently trying to pass.
One emotional speaker was Colombian immigrant Ericka Chaves, mother of one of the dozens injured in Charlottesville, Houstonian Natalie Romero. Chaves said her daughter was the first in her family to attend college, and she is on a full scholarship at the University of Virginia. Romero has a skull fracture and many cuts and bruises, but is expected to recover. The family is raising money to cover her mounting medical bills. Chaves thanked everyone for their support and said she knew her daughter would continue to stand up for justice for all.
A young reproductive justice activist drew cheers when she said, “I’m not here just to talk about a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion or have a child. I’m here to say that Black mothers must have the right to raise a child that doesn’t have to see racist statues of Robert E. Lee. And that undocumented mothers have the right to not be separated from their children because of deportation.”
The Texas legislature is now considering a bill that could cause more deaths like Heather Heyer’s or serious injuries like Natalie Romero’s. House Bill 250 would make it semi-legal for a driver to run over a protester if that protester is blocking traffic, as long as the driver is “exercising due care.”
— Report by Gloria Rubac
California Bay Area
Over 500 people came out in Oakland, Calif., on the night of Aug. 12 for a vigil in solidarity with Charlottesville. They rallied at Latham Square, then marched through the downtown area and eventually reached the I-580 freeway — where they shut it down in both directions.
The next day, another rally of a few hundred people gathered again in Latham Square. The rally was organized by the Anti Police-Terror Project. The organization’s spokesperson Cat Brooks said, “We know these neo-Nazis, these alt-right folks are on their way to Berkeley and San Francisco on the 26th and 27th. As opposed to waiting for those days to come out in droves to tell them they’re not welcome here, we figured we’d start now. … You are not welcome in the Bay. We are not scared of you. We will not stay inside. We do not cower to bullies, and these are our streets.”
Many other rallies were held in San Francisco, San Jose and other cities and towns across the Bay Area.
— Report by Terri Kay
Anne Pruden and Susan Schnur also contributed to this article.
Photos: Susan Schnur in Cleveland; Benji Pyles in Huntington, W.Va.; Anne Pruden in New York City; Josh Link in Columbus, Ohio; Peter Gilbert in Durham, N.C.; Joe Brusky in Milwaukee; Deandra Patrica in Philadelphia; Liliana Castrillon in Houston; Gil Ross in Oakland, Calif.