On Sunday night, the New York Times published first-hand accounts of the violence in Charlottesville, VA from the perspective of the University of Virginia students who live, study and work in the college town that became a battlefield on Friday and Saturday.
“After this weekend, there should be no excuse for anyone to not take white supremacy seriously,” said History and Government major Weston Gobar. “Certainly the neo-Nazis who came to Charlottesville to intimidate minority communities take themselves seriously: They showed up with assault rifles and guns, wearing camouflage. They marched through a college campus with lit torches, yelling Nazi-era slogans and phrases like, ‘You will not replace us.’”
He continued, “The intention of this ‘alt-right’ rally was clear, and it had nothing to do with a statue. It was about intimidation. We need to call this violence — which culminated with the death of a 32-year-old woman — by it’s name: domestic terrorism.”
Politics and African-American and African Studies major Aryn A Frazier said, “On Friday night, I was locked in a church full of people, who were singing loudly to overpower the hate-filled chants of alt-right protesters carrying torches right outside the chapel doors.”
In spite of her fears, Frazier and her friends got up early on Saturday and joined the swelling ranks of counter-protesters gathering at Emancipation Park.
“It was obviously a very dangerous situation. The news said it. The governor said it when he declared a state of emergency and called in the National Guard. The worried text messages of family and friends said it. And a woman murdered in the street said it,” she said.
Nonetheless, “Each time one of the white supremacists threw a water bottle filled with a purplish chemical I couldn’t identify, or released pepper spray or smoke into the crowd, the counter-protesters retreated. We coughed into surgical masks or scarves and clutched at our throats, but then turned back for more.”
Isabella Ciambotti, a creative writing major, described the scene on Saturday as, “Violence and hate and blood, that’s what I saw. What happened in Charlottesville this past weekend wasn’t a rally. It was a riot.”
“There were absolutely groups of peaceful protesters in Charlottesville this past weekend, many making a mature show of resistance. But what I saw on Market Street didn’t feel like resistance. It felt like every single person letting out his or her own well of fear and frustration on the crowd,” she said.
“At one point, a woman demonstrating with the white supremacists “turned to me, looked me dead in the eye and said, ‘I hope you get raped by a nigger,'” she recounted. “I would hear that line several more times before the end of the day.”
“I’m staying up on Saturday night fending off nightmares of armed militiamen dragging me out of my dorm room in the middle of the night, because did you see how those guys were able to just walk onto the Lawn like that? Those men beat and pepper-sprayed my friends and killed a young woman in the town I have come to call home,” wrote Nojan Rostami, who fears that people of color will not be safe at the University.
Brendan Novak, the opinion editor of The Cavalier Daily said that weeks ago, he wrote a column supporting the rights of “Unite the Right” marchers to come to town and express their views, however repugnant they may be to society at large.
“I feel foolish about that,” he told the Times. “The alt-right has shown itself to be a domestic terrorist organization. Their use of intimidation, terror and violence in the pursuit of their goals more than justify this categorization.”