This account has been collected from three different people who were on the front lines of resistance to the KKK, white nationalists, and police violence. You can support Tracye Prince DeSon, a BLM organizer who was attacked by CPD here. Legal support for the Charlottesville 23 here.
On July 9th over one thousand people showed up to chase out the Klan and violent racist ideology. That day—like many before—the police protected the racists and attacked anti-racists and anti-fascists for standing up against it. 23 antiracist activists were locked up; charges range from felony anti-masking to disorderly conduct.
In the past few months Charlottesville has become a staging ground for Richards Spencer. Richard Spencer, after getting chased out of DC and having antifascists show up at his door numerous times, ran south where he couldn’t get harassed by anti-racist activists. Charlottesville, VA—like much of the south—has a bloody history of white nationalists organizing and terrorizing community of color.
It’s no surprise that the police would be protecting law and ordering over opposition to violent and hateful violence brought by the KKK and Richard Spencer.
From Charlottesville Residents:
Even those who were born here seem shocked that we are attracting so much attention from white supremacist groups, but Charlottesville has a long history with the KKK. UVA has been criticized for accepting donations from them and failing to make a statement rejecting that history, and Richard Spencer attended UVA as a student before he went on his campaign to energize white nationalists.
Racist far-Right bloggers like Jason Kessler [who have written for Tucker Carlson’s website The Daily Caller – about white nationalist organizing] have also been actively recruiting and have invited white nationalist groups to town on several occasions. Systemic racism is a problem in Charlottesville, and local organizers have attempted to hold the CPD accountable for harassing POC and failing to protect them; CPD failed both the black community and the trans community when they failed to find a black trans woman who’s been missing since 2012 and is presumed to have been murdered. Meanwhile, communities of color in Charlottesville are currently being displaced through policies of gentrification.
On Saturday June 8th, the KKK came to Charlottesville. They had advertised the event as the KKK event of the summer. In the end, even with police protection, only a few dozens showed up. The KKK showed up late and when they did they were surrounded by temporary fencing and a ring of white cops. After about an hour the police escorted them out of the park to their cars and the crowd chased them chanting and booing.
Once the Cops ensured the safety of the klan they turned their sights – on the protest themselves.
Police in riot gear told the crowd to disperse, saying the gathering was now unlawful and that if people didn’t move they would be arrested. People did move, heading back up towards the park following the mob of police officers, at which point they took up a defensive position and once again told the crowd to disperse. The police proceeded to use tear gas on the crowd.
From Two Arrestees Themselves:
I’ve been to numerous protests in recent years in quite a few different cities; all for Black lives. I knew the KKK was having a rally in Charlottesville in July 8th, 2017 and I knew I would be there to counter-protest. As expected the police gave them all the protections they needed for their rally to go on without a single one of them being harmed, good job CPD.
I went there expecting tensions to maybe get high and maybe a clash between the Klan and counter-protesters, what I didn’t expect was for every single act of violence to come from the police. Police in riot gear walked up to protesters and started pushing without any warning very forcefully causing some people to fall over. At one point I saw one cop reach through two other cops in front of him to grab a protester by the arm to arrest them, for no apparent reason. At that point I wrapped my arms around their waist, told them everything is going to be ok, and proceeded to walk backwards until the cops grip was loosened and the protester was set free, I then whispered in their ear “run” in case police went looking for them.
By this time the KKK was already on the road with their police escort, yet more riot cops were coming. I made my way back to 4th & High st where I saw a black woman in handcuffs being escorted down a ramp. I sprung into action and blocked the end of the ramp by holding on to one of the rails, I then felt an arm wrap around mine and saw a changing of people locking arms helping to block the police and protect other people. Next thing I know police started grabbing people and forcefully tried to remove them. I sat down and others followed, arms still linked.
“AS I’M FACE DOWN ON THE CONCRETE, HE BEGAN TO DISPENSE PEPPER SPRAY ONTO MY BODY, REACHED DOWN AND TOOK OFF MY GOGGLES AND BEGAN SPRAYING ME DIRECTING IN MY FACE.”
One police officer tried to get to the other side of us and step right in between us but ended up kicking me in the head, first with his right boot, followed by his left boot making contact with my face as well. By this point I’m grabbing my face making sure it’s not bleeding and that I’m ok. I have two metal plates in my jaw in that same side and the vibration from the kick caused my jaw to start to tingle. Next thing I know I’m on the ground, a person facing me, tears falling down her face, we’re hugging each other and all I can hear her saying is, “I won’t let you go, I love you, I won’t let them hurt you,” words that will ring through my ears ’til I die.
One officer told everyone else to back up and let us go. I put my goggles over my eyes and bandana over my face for protection, and it was at that time officer EJ Thomas said, “No, they’re all getting arrested,” and proceeded to put his knee into my back. As I’m face down on the concrete, he began to dispense pepper spray onto my body, reached down and took off my googles and began spraying me directing in my face.
I felt one officer grab my leg, scraping my arm against the concrete, causing me to get an open wound that is now filling with chemical agents from the pepper spray. I’m now finding it hard to catch my breath and need medical attention. They put me in zip tie handcuffs and put me in a transport vehicle, and it took at least 30-45 minutes to drive me a block away to a medical team where I received a nebulizer to help regulate my breathing. At the end of the day, the irony of it all was I’M being charged with, “Obstruction of justice,” or, “Obstruction of INjustice,” as I like to put it. I have been summoned to court on Friday, July 14th, at 9 am at 606 E Market st Charlottesville, CA 22902, maybe I’ll see you there.
From Another Arrestee:
“IT QUICKLY BECAME CLEAR THAT THE TONE OF THE POLICE HAD CHANGED. IT WAS NO LONGER ABOUT THE KKK AND KEEPING THEM SEPARATED FROM COUNTER-PROTESTERS. IT BECAME ABOUT CRUSHING OUR VOICES IN THE MOST AGGRESSIVE WAY POSSIBLE.”
I came to Charlottesville, Virginia to disrupt a KKK rally and to show them that their white supremacy isn’t welcome here. Of course, I expected cops to protect them and to be aggressive towards counter-protesters, but the degree to which cops escalated was something I had not prepared for that day.
The KKK showed up 45 minutes late to their rally, escorted by heavy police presence. Their area in the park was double barricaded, which showed how intent the police were on keeping the Klan safe. No surprise there… What I didn’t see from the side of the park I was on, though, were the riot cops.
I only saw them when we went to follow the KKK out of the park. They were shoving people out of the way of the Klan very aggressively, throwing people to the ground and kicking them, and waving their big guns around. A group of people followed the direction in which the Klan was being led on an adjacent street and I joined in. When we got there, a line of riot police with shields was forming. They shoved us from one side of the street to the other. After some time, the cops decided to change their location and got into a formation on the street adjacent to the one on which they first started escalating. People rushed after them to see what was going on.
It quickly became clear that the tone of the police had changed. It was no longer about the KKK and keeping them separated from counter-protesters. It became about crushing our voices in the most aggressive way possible. It became about control. About showing us that no matter what we do, they will come for us.
It seemed as if the riot cops brought out their gear like they got new toys and were excited to try them out. We were conveniently there for them to play with. The situation looked like this; the police, covered from head to toe in riot gear, were blocking off the entire street, the protesters, scattered, unmasked were walking around, trying to figure out what was going on. Some of them were shouting at the cops for protecting the KKK. A line of people formed in front of the cops.
“TO SOME DEGREE, I AM SHOCKED THAT THE POLICE TOOK SUCH DRASTIC MEASURES AGAINST PEOPLE WHO WERE PROTESTING THE MOST WELL KNOWN HATE GROUP IN COUNTRY, BUT ON THE OTHER HAND, WHAT ELSE DID I EXPECT?”
The police declared that our assembly was unlawful and shot tear gas into the crowd. It was a lot of tear gas and it was very difficult to breathe. One of the canisters directly hit a line of people who had their arms locked together in an attempt to deescalate and clearly had no intention or ability to be engaging the cops. A comrade quickly handed me an extra t-shirt that they had in their bag, and I loosely tied it around my mouth and nose so that I didn’t get too many chemicals in my face. We were walking away from the line of riot cops, when felt myself being shoved, and my backpack pulled. Before I could even react, my hands were behind my back and in zip ties. The cop screamed in my face that it was a felony to be masking my identity in the state of Virginia and that I was under arrest and I was aggressively walked into the courthouse. It happened so quickly. When going to Charlottesville, I did not anticipate being arrested. I didn’t expect tear gas. I didn’t even bring a bandana with me.
To some degree, I am shocked that the police took such drastic measures against people who were protesting the most well known hate group in country, but on the other hand, what else did I expect? State oppression is rampant, and the cops will violently shut down anyone who tries to take up space outside of what the government has permitted. Nevertheless, we will keep fighting for what’s right.
Looking to the Future:
Looking to the future, the Right wants to make the south a staging ground for white nationalist organizing. Show up on August 12th and confront Richard Spencer.
As solidarity Cville points out, “Police provided the Klan safe passage out of the park, while a community member called to the police, ‘Do your job, and protect us.’ Today and every day, the police were there to protect white supremacy.”
Towards a world free of white supremacy and capitalism,
—We’ll see you in the streets on August 12th.