On the evening of August 11th, 2017, self-identified members of the alt-right, neo-fascists, white nationalists and neo-Nazis movements gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia. The marchers chanted white supremacist and antisemitic slogans, including "White lives matter"; "You will not replace us"; and "Jews will not replace us". They carried guns and waved Nazi flags.
The following day, the protesters gathered again at Emancipation Park. This time they were met by counterprotesters in anticipation of another rally. The white nationalist protesters, many wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, repeated white supremacist chants and Nazi-era slogans. Ahead of the rally's official noon start time, protesters and counterprotesters faced off and violence ensued. Fights broke out, water bottles were thrown and smoke bombs set off. At least 14 people were injured in the madness. Shortly before the rally was scheduled to begin, Virginia State Police declared the gathering an unlawful assembly and riot police cleared the scene.
After the aborted rally, white supremacist James Alex Fields Jr. drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters, hitting several and slamming into a stopped sedan. Fields then reversed the car through the crowd and fled the scene. Heather Heyer, a 32-year-old paralegal from Charlottesville, was fatally injured in the attack. Her last published post of Facebook read “If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention.” 19 others were injured.
President Trump’s initial silence on these events was deafening. And when he did speak, his refusal to acknowledge the hatred for what it was and unabashedly push a false narrative of moral equivalence was sickening. Do not ignore his words. They were said with intention and embolden those that peddle hate. They leave our country without a moral center. Resist obscured truths and outright falsehoods, divisive rhetoric and bigoted undertones. Make your voices heard. Demonstrate and protest peacefully. Vote when you can. Support leaders that pair words with actions. Those that don’t ignore the marginalized or disenfranchised, but those who drive change and bring America together.
Remember what Heather Heyer wrote. If you’re not outraged, you’re not paying attention.