Spotlight:

Charlottesville

The statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee stands in the center of the renamed Emancipation Park on August 22, 2017 in Charlottesville, Virginia. A decision to remove the statue led to the ultimately deadly Unite the Right rally on August 12, 2017.

Charlottesville, Virginia (est. 1762) is located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains approximately 100 miles southwest of Washington, D.C. It is the home of the University of Virginia and “serves as the economic, cultural, and educational center of a multi-county region in Central Virginia.” The 2014 census estimated the city’s population to be over 45,000, with over 200,000 living in the surrounding area.   

The Unite the Right Rally. Charlottesville is the city in which the tragic events of the white nationalist Unite the Right rally occurred on August 11-12, 2017. The stated intent of the rally was to protest the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue from the recently renamed Emancipation Park. The weekend began on Friday night when a group of around 100 men representing various Alt-Right and white nationalist groups held a ceremonial march across the University of Virginia campus carrying tiki torches. At the rally on Saturday, a larger group, which included white nationalists, white supremacists, Alt-Right, neo-Nazis, neo-Confederates and militia members, gathered in the place in which they had received a permit to demonstrate. Counter-protesters, including peaceful protesters as well as the violence-embracing Antifa, converged on the rally. Skirmishes soon broke out between the white nationalists and the Antifa. At around 1:45 p.m., suspected white nationalist James Alex Fields, Jr., 20, plowed his Dodge Challenger into a group of counter-protesters, injuring 19 and killing one woman, Heather Heyer, 32. The horrific event resulted in a national firestorm that quickly turned into a movement to tear down statues deemed to be glorifying any figure associated with white supremacy. President Donald Trump was widely criticized for blaming “many sides” for the violence.