A year after Charlottesville, activists ramp up the fight against white supremacy
August 12 marked the one-year anniversary of the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. This event represented our reality under a Donald Trump presidency—one in which white supremacists not only incite violence and death in cities across the country but also make government policy. To mark the occasion, Jason Kessler, the same organizer who planned last year’s rally, planned a Unite the Right 2 in Washington, D.C. Kessler’s rally, which took place Sunday, was a complete flop, with about 40 supporters showing up only to be met by thousands of counter protesters. But prior to Sunday’s sad little showing by Kessler and his white supremacist friends, organizations and activists across the country were preparing online and offline actions in order to protest the rise of white supremacy in the United States. Daily Kos heard from activists in Charlottesville about their experiences over the last year and spoke by phone with Brandi Collins, senior campaign director at Color of Change, to learn about the work they are doing to fight racial injustice everyday.
Since the Unite the Right rally, activists in Charlottesville have been actively working on police accountability, immigration, housing and schooling, and removing confederate statues. This is not to say that this kind of work was not being done before. But last year’s events and the violent death of Heather Hayer offered the chance for residents to honestly take stock of the city’s long legacy of racial and social injustice. According to Zyahna Bryant, the Charlottesville activist who initiated the petition to remove the Robert E. Lee statue and rename Lee Park, white supremacy is always lurking beneath the surface in Charlottesville and is present across all its institutions.
“White supremacy and racism didn’t just arrive in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017, it has always been here, and it has always been bigger than just a statue,” Bryant said. “Moving forward, we must stop erasing the names of women of color who built this movement from the ground up. Say the names of Sage Smith, Faye Tinsley, every victim of August 12, and every other person who has been a victim of racial terror in this city.”
The contributions of women of color, black women in particular, are all too often left out of the narrative when discussing civil rights and social justice activism. And yet, it is those women who are frequently on the front lines in communities like Charlottesville—organizing, protesting, tending to family and community and pushing for accountability. It represents their desire to create a future free of white supremacy and make a safer, more just city for its residents of color. This is the reason why Katrina Turner, a Charlottesville organizer and member of its police department’s Civilian Review Board, actively fights against injustice. For Turner, it embodies the same spirit of black and brown people who endured and fought injustice centuries before.