A Call to Action to the Charlottesville Resistance of August 2018

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Published on 5/9/2018

TO THOSE WHO NEVER KNEW WHAT HAPPENED IN CHARLOTTESVILLE…

Nine months ago, various factions of white supremacists banded to terrorize the city of Charlottesville, VA the weekend of August 11-12, 2017, under the banner of ‘Unite the Right’. The events were called for by local white supremacist Jason Kessler. He also put together, with the help of other well-documented leaders of white supremacist groups, the “Charlottesville 2.0” Discord server that produced unending death threats and harassment of local anti-racists.

In the face of all of this violence, local anti-racists came together and called for a mobilization into Charlottesville to stop this attempt at normalizing white supremacist violence. We barely knew each other, we had intense disagreements, and we scrambled with very little idea of what we were up against. We got invaluable support and knowledge from resistors across the nation, in light of the expected hardships.

But no one could have expected James Alex Fields Jr., Unite the Right participant, to drive his car into a marching crowd of anti-racists, injuring dozens and killing local resident Heather Heyer. We expected the cops to protect the Nazis and to watch them beat anyone who crossed their paths, as they did. But we couldn’t have expected an act as cruel as using a car as a weapon in our town.

This has left us scarred, literally. It has sent shockwaves across the world to parts that we never knew our story would have resonated. We are still here fighting, mainly on two fronts: fighting a renewed effort from Kessler to have an anniversary rally on August 12th, 2018, and fighting the government’s and non-profits’ attempts to repress our movement while co-opting our message. Now that you have a glimpse of some of what happened to us, we invite you to join this fight.

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TO THOSE WHO KNEW BUT WATCHED FROM THE SIDELINES…

There are many reasons you’d stay on the sidelines: you’ve faced the Klan before and it’s too much to do it again, you didn’t have the means to come, you were afraid, the call to action came too late, you think it’s better to “ignore them”, you were a cop behind a metal barrier… The images of violence might’ve also caught you by surprise and now you wish you had been ready.

This summer is your chance to step out from the sidelines. This struggle needs you to take this risk. Challenging the status quo is uncomfortable and we ask you to join us in leaning into this discomfort. The movement for liberation can be defined in many ways. However, the word “struggle” is appropriate because, on a personal level, it is extremely difficult. It is not easy to challenge the status quo. It is not easy to feel the social weight of going against neighbors and friends who call for “civility.” It is stressful to face harassment and threats. It is uncomfortable to confront white supremacists in public as they seek to organize and further their violent agenda. There is a lot of emotional tension in confronting the police as they protect white supremacists and target Black and Brown people. We do not pretend any of this is easy. We do not do this for fun. We do not invite you in for glory. We cannot offer you a reward. The movement for liberation from white supremacy is a struggle — it is a heavy emotional and physical burden.

Yet, in this struggle, there is promise in solidarity. As we take on this struggle together, as we step into the discomfort and the danger of confronting the status quo and confronting racism, we can work to protect each other. We ask you to join us in the risk, join us in the discomfort. The struggle needs you, and it is worth it.

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TO THOSE WHO KNEW AND JOINED OUR CITY IN RESISTANCE…

The city is forever indebted to you. There was a very real chance that a successful ‘Unite the Right’ rally would have catapulted the so-called alt-right’s agenda into normalized society. Instead, the rally failed. The ensuing in-fighting and weakening of the alt-right through last year’s fall and winter showed that the weekend of resistance on August 11-12 was pivotal, and it wouldn’t have happened if you hadn’t responded to the call.

You showed up in so many ways that weekend: You cooked meals and kept people hydrated, you stepped in between a stranger and a swinging Confederate flag pole, you blessed a small crowd at dawn and marched out early, you identified and exposed every single fascist scum you could, you infiltrated the organizing group of ‘Unite the Right’ and provided crucial intel, you performed CPR in the middle of 4th street even though you thought the day was over, you held loved ones through sobbing breakdowns in the aftermath of the torch rally and the car attack…

To say that we invite you back misses the full picture of what this struggle will look like this summer. We are committed to this fight together. Wherever you are: in the over-surveilled streets of Garrett Square, the quiet poverty of the county, or across state lines, we will fight white supremacy on all fronts, and we are in it with you because the fight is worth it.

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TO THOSE WHO ARE EXPLOITING THIS PAIN FOR POLITICAL GAIN…

You either used literal blood to prop up your political pet projects or you parachuted in with your polished non-profit to impose solutions that disregard the work being done on the ground. Democrats and Republicans exploit imagery of the struggle against racism in Charlottesville for political gain, and then do not come through with any meaningful actions to protect targeted people in Charlottesville.

Now, we ask you to be honest. Why are you using Charlottesville? Be honest about whether you have your own platform or brand and whether Charlottesville is simply a convenient stage to promote your own agenda. The people of color and anti-racist activists confronting white supremacy on a daily basis here are not getting political points for this work. They have no brand or reputation to promote. They aren’t being paid. And in exchange for the daily struggle of confronting racism, they face daily harassment, threats, criminal charges and lawsuits. If you sincerely want to help, stop promoting your own agenda and start talking to some of these people on the ground to see what would actually be helpful. It will likely be unheralded, unrewarded work. But it will be needed, and it will be worth it.

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TO THOSE WHO ARE STILL SUFFERING IN PAIN AND TRAUMA AFTER WHAT HAPPENED…

We see you. Nine months later, it’s clear that the pain and trauma is beyond physical: relationships have fallen apart, defenders are facing trial, grand juries are looming in the background, survivors haven’t received adequate support…

Wherever you’re at, physically or emotionally, we know you’re invested in this struggle. We’ve seen the way your firsthand experience is something that no reporter will ever capture. We are grateful for what you have risked, what you have given, and what you have accomplished. We love you, and we believe in you.

We invite you to think this year about the power of your voice in this moment. We invite you to think about how you can invite more people in, too. You have people in your life who love you and care about you and see how much you’ve given.

We invite you to be held by the love of all of us in the struggle together. We know that trauma can be isolating; we know that pain can leave us feeling alone. We want you to know we are in this together. We want you to ask for and receive the love, care, and support you need. We invite you to prioritize your own resilience. Taking care of ourselves and each other is a priority of the struggle, and you are worth it.

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TO THOSE WHO WISH TO JOIN IN RESISTANCE AGAIN…

You will come back to a different East Market St., a different Rotunda steps, a different Charlottesville… The statues are still here, but there is a sense of clarity about what white supremacy actually looks like. There is an air in the town that hangs as if a large heap of trash buried below the city had begun to leak fumes, but everyone secretly knew it was coming.

In that change, new relationships have formed. Locals have been learning how to start collectives to address our own needs (for health care, communication, resource-sharing, etc) without suffering through government negligence or condescending attempts at “dialogue” from nonprofits and businesses. You will find us actively taking care of each other, asserting our own needs and goals and promoting these practices of community care.

You will also find us wary of outsiders. We have begged for help and been ignored; we have been promised help and been forgotten; we have bared our secrets and been betrayed. We want you here and we want to be in the struggle with you. But please allow us to not trust everyone at first glance, and please help us and collaborate with us anyway.

We ask you to learn the local nuance of the struggles of people of color here and to not wait for instructions before taking action against fascism and for racial justice. We ask you to honor the unique trauma of Charlottesville and to remember that fascists anywhere pose a threat to people everywhere, so you must stop the Nazis in your own home communities. We ask you to respond with urgency to immediate fascist threats and we ask you to respond with urgency to the centuries of indigenous genocide and anti-Black abuse embedded into the fabric of what we call our “democracy”. We can and must hold all these tensions. We are working not just to stop fascism but to achieve liberation for all.

Local organizers are hard at work laying the groundwork for logistics, fun, resistance, and a diversity of actions and voices for August 11-12, 2018. This resistance belongs to every oppressed person of Charlottesville and we seek to keep it open to that. Keep your eyes and ears open for more information.

We will see you in celebration and in mourning. We will see you in resistance this August.

Start conspiring. Start planning to resist. Keep your eyes peeled for chances to contribute.  We will win and it will be worth it.

— Charlottesville Summer of Resistance Welcoming Committee