Column: Learning from Charlottesville


Flowers left at a shrine to show solidarity with Heather Heyer, a victim of the violence in Charlottesville. Heyer was killed after a car crashed into demonstrators protesting a white supremacy rally. Image source: Wisconsin State Legislature.

Virginia’s law enforcement is accused of having blood on their hands after Neo-Nazis, white supremacists and the Ku Klux Klan recently banned together in Charlottesville, Virginia for an “alt-right” rally.

The rally’s goal was to oppose the removal a statue of Robert E. Lee, a confederate general in the Civil War, from Emancipation Park. This rally — nicknamed “Unite the Right” — started off peacefully, but tensions broke into booming violence as anti-fascist protesters showed up to contest the white-supremacists. Unsurprisingly, many spectators stood idly by during the violence, but unfortunately, so did much of the law enforcement.

As soon as opposing protesters starting provoking each other, police officers should have intervened to keep the peace, especially since they were prepared with shields and bats. However, police did the opposite, and looked on as protesters pepper sprayed and beat each other with rifles and their bare hands.

The duty of the police is to protect and keep citizens safe whether it is in a rally setting or not. Therefore, as soon as white-supremacists showed up with helmets, rifles and bats, the police should have known the white-supremacists weren’t planning on leaving without bloodshed and should have shut down the rally.

Richard Spencer, a self-proclaimed white supremacist who is the chairman of the National Policy Institute and co-founder of — a white-supremacist staple — slammed the Charlottesville police in statements on Twitter. “Why was a car able to drive into a protest? Where were the roadblocks?” In response to a video of protesters and counter-protesters clashing, Spencer said, “How many injuries occurred because of the outrageous actions of police?”  The video shows no police officers protecting others and shutting down violent actions, as the police said they would “not intervene until given command to do so.”

In America, white supremacists and alt-right followers tend to be in favor of police force. Since our law enforcement has hand many instances of putting white citizens on a pedestal and treating other races — especially African-Americans — extremely unlawfully and unfairly, white supremacists seem to frequently agree with the police’s actions. For an extreme white supremacist, especially in the likes of Richard Spencer — who literally runs an alt-right website, to disagree with law enforcements actions, shows what an atrocious job the police did at Charlottesville.     

Virginia police should have expected an aggressive attack. That is exactly what happened as a 20-year-old male white-supremacist plowed his car into an anti-fascist protest and killed a young woman named Heather Heyer. The fact that a car could even be able to drive into the area of a rally, especially a rally with so much tension surrounding it, it is completely unacceptable. With all the violence in the world, police should have realized that in this modern age, cars are being used as weapons. The police did not only put no effort into shutting down the rally but they also did a horrible job of preparing. I have high expectations for our American police force, but why didn’t the police care enough to put up a few roadblocks?

A spokeswoman for the Virginia Police, Corinne Geller, defended the police’s actions saying, “That’s part of the privilege of having of having freedom of speech and the freedom of assembly.” Yes, freedom of speech is what our country is based on, but we need law enforcement to keep it as speech and not let a peaceful protest turn into physical violence.

“It’s almost as if they wanted us to fight.” Hawk Newsome, president of Black Lives Matter of Greater York told told CBS19. “The police actually allowed us to square off against each other.”

I feel ashamed to live in a country where police are not helping people feel safe and comfortable in their own homes. People will not want to voice their opinions in this country anymore because they will fear a car plowing into them, and the police won’t intervene to protect them.

If people bring more attention to the police’s lack of action, America will become a safer, more prosperous country. Despite my disappointment in law enforcements actions, or lack thereof, we need to keep fighting for the causes we believe in and challenging the ones we don’t. To the police, who were bystanders at this bloody rally, I hope you take this failure and learn from it. In the future, do your duty, protect your citizens equally and do not let this world become more violent than it already is.