President Trump — who has drawn accusations of furthering the racial divide in America — condemned last year’s events in Charlottesville in a tweet Saturday morning, saying they “resulted in senseless death and division.”
“We must come together as a nation,” he wrote. “I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!”
It was a departure from his comments a year ago in which he said “very fine people” were among the white supremacists in Charlottesville, prompting a political firestorm that lasted for days and culminated in an infamous press conference in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York.
Charlottesville hosts vigils, memorials
On Sunday morning, as Washington prepared for potential crowds of white nationalists, a crowd made up of leftist and anti-racist demonstrators gathered in Charlottesville and made their way to the spot where counterprotester Heather Heyer was killed when a suspected neo-Nazi sympathizer drove a car into a crowd.
There they sang spirituals and held a moment of silence. But like protesters on the campus of the University of Virginia Saturday night, many expressed antagonism towards police, some of whom were dressed in riot gear and who had a large presence throughout the city to prevent any outbreak of violence.
“There’s a profound difference in this year and last year and that is the heavy police presence,” said Lisa Woolfork, an associate professor of English at the University of Virginia and a local organizer with Black Lives Matter.
Some people might be comforted by the police, Woolfork continued. “But for folks like me, black and brown folks, folks in Black Lives Matter, we don’t equate a heavy police presence with safety, so we see this as a perceived risk and increasing the possible harm that might occur to us.”
For much of Saturday, the city appeared mainly focused on healing, with a number of vigils and memorial services scheduled throughout the weekend. Some crowds showed up in the city that day, which was under a state of emergency along with the Commonwealth of Virginia.
A group of leftist protesters known as antifa — shorthand for anti-fascists — marched in silence Saturday afternoon to the Heyer memorial, where some paid their respects by using chalk to scrawl messages of remembrance in the street and on the walls of nearby buildings.
Kessler had sought a permit from the city of Charlottesville to hold an event commemorating the “Unite the Right” rally this weekend, but withdrew his request in a federal court hearing late last month, according to city officials.
The hearing was part of his lawsuit against Charlottesville after it denied his permit application on the grounds it would “present a danger to public safety.”