After the events of this weekend, the world has placed Charlottesville, Virginia in its lexicon.
The citizens of the Charlottesville have just witnessed their city invaded. The students of University of Virginia have had their grounds rioted on.
Where do we go from here? Where do we go as a city, as a school, and as a nation? What happens next?
There doesn’t appear to be an answer yet. The President of the United States opted out of providing definitive direction, delivering a tepid response that avoided criticizing the perpetrators of the riots.
We will continue to follow developments in Charlottesville, and will provide whatever assistance is needed. We are ready, willing and able. pic.twitter.com/mCTYBgUePi
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 12, 2017
Charlottesville Mayor Mike Signer took a stronger stance, calling it domestic terrorism and condemning the violence.
It was domestic terrorism, General. Full-stop. https://t.co/3bQZc1ccL6
— Mike Signer (@MikeSigner) August 13, 2017
And the University of Virginia has released public statements explaining:
“Our Way Forward is Together… The University supports the First Amendment rights to free speech and peaceable assembly. Acts of violence, however, are not protected by the First Amendment. Violence and bigotry are not political positions… All of us are profoundly concerned and disturbed by incidents occurring this weekend related to the “Unite the Right” rally in downtown Charlottesville.”
All these responses provide hope and condemnation, but no direction.
Yesterday, the world witnessed Neo-Nazis and white supremacists drive a city into chaos and violence. Indeed, they proclaimed: “You will not replace us,” and for now it appears that is true.
Richard Spencer has vowed to return, and “make Charlottesville the center of the universe.”
In an online video, titled “a message to Charlottesville,’’ Richard Spencer vowed to return to the college town https://t.co/a5QAPNEjaR pic.twitter.com/zPWxDtkPa7
— The New York Times (@nytimes) August 13, 2017
All the rioters who began on the grounds of the University of Virginia have returned to their homes. Heather Heyer however, is dead and nineteen more are injured.
It is possible the American public and political sphere have been awoken by this weekend. It is also possible that the world has finally taken note that white nationalism in the US has fully re-surfaced into the mainstream. Yet history shows Charlottesville has met this challenge before and has failed to defend its citizens.
Vice Mayor Wes Bellamy in his NPR interview with Stacey Smith points out:
“The images that you see on television and that you’re hearing do not reflect the people of the city of Charlottesville. Now, yes, we are a community and a city that has a lot of issues. As many of you are aware, we’re entrenched in a battle to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee. But what you’re seeing is bigger than a statue… We have to keep in mind that this is a city and a area that literally shut down schools during the massive resistance of the 1950s instead of integrating them. This is a city/area that literally tore down an entire African-American community that was called Vinegar Hills…This isn’t a Statue issue. This is white supremacy.”
The events in Charlottesville could begin a movement and provoke a realization–or nothing could change. Only time will tell. In the immediate with emotions high however, Charlottesville may be at risk of violence again.
The University of Virginia will need to create a plan of action to ensure grounds are safe and a mob does not return. It will also be up to UVa to find a way to make the class of 2021 comfortable with a shaken city.
Likewise, the leadership in Charlottesville will need to find a way to keep peace and minimize the chance for future violence.
In the meantime the statue of Robert E. Lee stands.