Anxiety is high in Virginia as it approaches the one-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally, the “alt-right” violent protest that brought together all manner of white supremacists in Charlottesville.
In anticipation of demonstrations—and subsequent clashes—marking the anniversary, including a Unite the Right 2 rally that will be held this weekend in Washington, D.C., the Commonwealth and the city of Charlottesville have declared a state of emergency.
According to CNN, Jeffrey Stern, a state coordinator for the Virginia Department of Emergency Management said, “We are treating this as a statewide event.”
But Charlottesville, in particular, has been forced to reckon with the aftermath of the deadly rally, with residents facing tough questions about how the city has defined itself in the past, and how it will do so in the future.
Two stories published earlier this week point to how black Charlottesville residents and activists are leading the conversation, including the city’s first black female mayor, Nikuyah Walker, who was elected into office shortly after the August demonstration.
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In conversation with the Guardian, Walker was unwilling to let the city’s liberal white residents and public servants off the hook.
“I’m attempting to make sure—and it’s painful—that people who work for the city, people who receive money from the city, understand that if they’re not moving the needle, making progress, changing lives, if they don’t truly understand service, they will not be in a position to receive resources, or I will criticize you publicly,” she said.
In very polite, civil discussions around boardroom tables, eating Baggby’s sandwiches, you have put policies in place that have ruined generations of native families in this area. So I don’t really care about your request for civility, because even though you are not loud, you are not yelling, you still impacted people’s lives in a way that affected three or four generations at a time.
It’s very easy for people to blame [the white nationalist] Richard Spencer and Jason Kessler [the organizer of last year’s white supremacist rally], but they haven’t been in charge here.
Charlottesville activists have also drawn a hard line with the press when it comes to how reporters cover the city—a move that has its roots in the way the Unite the Right rally was reported.
As the Huffington Post writes, a network of community activists and members are refusing interviews for articles that give platforms to white supremacists. Media requests are filtered through a team of volunteers, the Charlottesville Anti-Racist Media Liaisons, who will refuse any interview if the piece will also include a white supremacist perspective.
“No platform for white supremacy,” the group’s Mimi Arbeit told HuffPost. “No face time, no interviews, no way. No platform to spread their violent views and actions.”
Writer Andy Campbell articulates the rationale behind the process (emphasis mine):
This isn’t some petty rule aimed at making reporters’ jobs more difficult. Giving column inches to violent racists and white supremacists ― like Kessler, or fellow UVA graduate and white supremacist Richard Spencer, or their pals—alongside local activists is creating an equivalency where none exists, tantamount to President Donald Trump saying there were good people “on both sides” of the Charlottesville confrontations.
The group also tracks which publications have given a platform to white supremacist views.
“We’re not debating. We’re fighting against a genocidal agenda,” Arbeit added. “The people have not forgotten or forgiven.”
The second Unite the Right rally will take place in D.C. from Aug. 11 to 12 in Lafayette Park. Organizer Jason Kessler’s permit application predicts around 400 demonstrators wanting to get in on the white supremacist-a-thon will attend the event; this doesn’t take into account what is sure to be a pronounced police and counter-protester presence.