SPLC – Southern Poverty Law Center, February 10, 2018
A fractured but energized movement tried to pull itself together — but ended up exposing even deeper rifts.
On Friday, August 11, Charlottesville, Virginia, seemed like an ordinary college town except for a couple of obvious signs of trouble; someone had scrawled “WE ARE NOT AFRAID” in rainbow chalk in front of the statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee in the recently renamed Emancipation Park, formerly Lee Park. And law enforcement officers were combing the bushes and shrubs looking for cached weapons.
Otherwise it could have been any other balmy August evening in this college town of 50,000. Neatly coiffed young women in party dresses strolled the downtown mall area, laughing and texting. Families with children in strollers, pets in tow, meandered along the quiet streets. Men and women in blindfolds offered free hugs to passersby, and musicians busked outside of sidewalk cafes.
Less than 24 hours later, violence in the same streets was leading newscasts around the world. Emboldened by the Trump presidency and a climate increasingly tolerant of racist beliefs, an estimated 500 white supremacists from around the country had descended on Charlottesville for “Unite the Right,” (UTR) a major show of force by American neo-Nazis and members of the racist “alt-right,” unprecedented in recent history, that resulted in bloody street clashes. By the end of the day one anti-racist protester and two police officers were dead, and at least 30 people injured.
For days and weeks following Unite the Right, media outlets depicted the tragic events as a signal of a dangerous new era for white nationalists intent on showing a reinvigorated movement ready for real world action.
Behind the scenes, however, UTR was hardly the unified front organizers had hoped for. Bickering and posturing plagued organizers during the weeks and months leading up to the August 12 event, which ultimately degenerated into mayhem… [+]