Friday night, thousands of white nationalists gathered, ahead of the “Unite the Right” rally, to march in protest of the removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.
As the group marched across the University of Virginia campus, they chanted “all white lives matter,” “no more brother wars,” “you will not replace us” “Jews will not replace us” and “Russia is our friend.” The torch-wielding group was enraged over the state’s decision to remove of the confederate statue and the march was their protest to “protect their white heritage.”
However, clergy members and counter-protesters, who stood in a line singing, “This Little Light of Mine” to drown out the racist chants, met the group mid-march. Many responded to the white nationalist with chants of their own, saying, “Love has already won. We have already won,” “We have replaced you. Strong, united, interracial crew.”
As tensions between the two groups flared, violence ensued. At least two people were hurt and treated for serious but non-life-threatening injuries and at least one person was arrested, reports state.
Local and university officials responded to the march with a statement, condemning those involved with the hateful behavior.
“I am deeply saddened and disturbed by the hateful behavior displayed by torch-bearing protesters that marched on our grounds this evening,” the University’s President said in a statement. “I strongly condemn the unprovoked assault on members of our community, including university personnel who were attempting to maintain order.”
“The violence displayed on the grounds is intolerable and is entirely inconsistent with the university’s values,” Teresa Sullivan added.
The next morning, several people denounced the march, calling those who participated “weak, ignorant, fearful people with citronella tiki torches.”
According to The Daily Progress, Charlottesville officials estimate between 2,000 and 6,000 will attend Saturday’s “Unite the Right” rally. As the group prepares for the rally, the Virginia Governor warned that “there have been communications from extremist groups, many of which are located outside of Virginia, who may seek to commit acts of violence against rally participants or law enforcement officials.” The governor also put the state’s national guard on alert.