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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Crowd in New Orleans holds vigil for Charlottesville victims

Posted By on Sat, Aug 12, 2017 at 9:40 PM

click to enlarge Candles at the base of the former Lee Circle monument Aug. 12 to support victims in Charlottesville.
  • Candles at the base of the former Lee Circle monument Aug. 12 to support victims in Charlottesville.

As sun set over New Orleans Aug. 12, a few dozen people lined the base of the former Robert E. Lee monument in New Orleans with tea light candles. A crowd gathered for a vigil to support victims of an attack against counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists staged a violent rally following the city's decision to remove the city's Lee monument earlier this year.

A driver rammed their car through a crowd of counter protesters in Charlottesville and killed a 32-year-old woman and injured at least 19 others. Graphic video from multiple sources was shared widely, showing a Dodge Challenger speeding into a crowd and reversing at high speed. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency as violence continued, urging "white supremacists and the Nazis" to "go home."

Flanking the base of what was once Lee's New Orleans pedestal were two banners: "End White Supremacy" and "Stand With C-Ville."

The crowd sang songs — "Solidarity Forever," an amended version of "John Brown's Body," and "We Shall Not Be Moved" — and wept, or stood silently, as a few drivers in cars circling the intersection honked their horns and held out fists in support.

Among the injured at today's protests in Charlottesville were members of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), International Workers of the World and other left and progressive groups. The New Orleans DSA chapter organized the event a few hours before it started and it quickly spread on social media.

"That's the strength of this group," said New Orleans DSA organizer Allison DeJong, "We have the strength of the national organization, but organizing is always one-to-one. You have to build a personal and trusting relationship with people. This kind of work is hard and scary and you need to be able to rely on people."

The New Orleans vigil aimed to show solidarity with other grieving activists, particularly in Charlottesville, but also groups from neighboring states and Washington D.C. who joined the counter protests.
New Orleans joined cities across the U.S. holding vigils following today's violence. Members of local progressive organizations and grassroots activist groups Our Revolution, Peoples' Assembly, Indivisible, and Take 'Em Down NOLA, among others, also were among the crowd at the Aug. 12 vigil. "We're all trying to row in the same direction," DeJong said.

The rally in Charlottesville — following that city's decision to remove its monument to Lee earlier this year — had attracted a similar crowd to one that appeared at Lee Circle in May, as the city prepared to remove the Lee statue and three other Confederate and white supremacist statues from public view.

On May 7, monument removal proponents Take 'Em Down NOLA had staged a large rally and march to Lee Circle, where hundreds of people faced members of several hate groups and internet-galvanized white supremacists, from the Ku Klux Klan to live-streaming "alt right" activist Baked Alaska, who also participated in Charlottesville protests.

It was among the city's first brushes with the latest wave of emboldened racist groups, some arriving in paramilitary-esque uniforms with shields, bats and firearms, as seen in Charlottesville.

The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) had separated the groups with barricades, keeping the white supremacists largely contained on the grass on one side the circle. NOPD made three arrests (all were monument supporters) for disturbing the peace, and there was nowhere near the level of violence seen in Charlottesville.

There also was an ongoing demonstration at the now-former Jefferson Davis statue site in Mid-City, where Confederate flag-waving protestors and supremacists remained on the neutral ground for several weeks, even after the statue's removal.

Neo-Nazi and New Orleans monument defender David Duke also appeared in Charlottesville as protests were underway and told reporters that the event "fulfills the promises of Donald Trump" to “take our country back.”

Speaking at a press conference in Virginia about veterans health care, Trump ignored questions from reporters about his position on white supremacist violence and condemned instead the "hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides.”

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