Friday, August 11, a group of alt-right white nationalists marched through University of Virginia's campus with torches, chanting "you will not replace us" and "blood and soil." They have remained there throughout today, causing the governor of Virginia to declare a state of emergency.
Soon after, students and other protestors gathered on campus, too, with their own messages.
"While I wasn't in Charlottesville or on grounds as any of these rallies were occurring, I have been following the events closely in the news. But, regardless of my affiliation with the University as a student there, these rallies are sickening, heartbreaking, infuriating--the list goes on," said Shelby*, a student at UVA majoring in English and foreign affairs. "As a student, of course, I feel an added level of shock and fear -- how can all this be happening where I'll be living again in a week, where I've spent the past three years? How can all this be happening on the lawn, where I've taken classes and sat with friends on sunny Friday afternoons and given tours?"
"That being said, though, these rallies are shocking for reasons beyond the fact that they're occurring in a place that I know so well and love so dearly -- these rallies are shocking because of the hate they emanate and the disgustingly intolerant views they espouse. You don't have to go to UVA in order to look at footage of last night's white nationalist 'march' on the lawn and be flabbergasted by the fact that that is happening, in America and in 2017. As a Charlottesville resident, sure, but as an American more importantly, I find these rallies to be gut-wrenching to watch and to hear about. They are atrocious, they are obscene, they are hate-filled, and they have no place on our lawn."
The images from the rally only got more horrifying.
Austin Seojin Jung, a freshman at UVA majoring in financial math, had a different opinion. "I don't mind them; [it's] just stupid people being stupid," he said. "As long as they protest peacefully and stay out of my business, I don't care."
Many students, primarily black students, no longer feel safe on campus. People are reaching out via Twitter to students feeling unsafe at the university.
"I think generally, even being from out of state and having spent limited time in Charlottesville, this is less of a surprise and more of a disappointment," said Moriah Hendrick, a freshman at UVA majoring in foreign affairs. "UVA is very intentional about the promotion of discourse and free speech, but to see that being used by students as an excuse to let these kinds of injustices stand is unnerving. The protection of other people's free speech can't keep us from standing up and speaking out against disgusting radical ideologies. When we react with embarrassment or a desire to sweep these events under the rug without giving them attention, we allow them to grow into even more power, unrestrained and unscathed. We can't afford let that happen, as UVA Wahoos, as residents of Charlottesville or as Americans."
Brenda, a student at UVA majoring in history and foreign affairs, said, "It's a little unbelievable to me that there is still a group of people that believe in white supremacy. It makes me feel helpless, as if we have stepped back to the 1960's."
"I think I can speak for all of my fellow students when I say that we are angry that they chose our beloved Charlottesville as their rallying grounds," she said. "This movement is not at all representative of how The University of Virginia's faculty, staff and students feel. It is casting a negative light on Charlottesville, while also making members of our University community feel unsafe in their own home. That is not okay."
The protests are ongoing.
*Names are omitted to protect identities.
Samay Bansal contributed to the reporting in the article.
Lead Image Credit: lory_farmer via Twitter