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Panelists Examine Protesting and Free Speech Ahead of Aug. 12 Anniversary

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Panelists discussed First Amendment rights on Aug. 7 Panelists discussed First Amendment rights on Aug. 7
Another panel event will be held on Wednesday, August 8 Another panel event will be held on Wednesday, August 8
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Ahead of the anniversary weekend of the Unite the Right rally, a group of panelists is talking about protesting and free speech.

On Tuesday, August 7, more than 100 people gathered for the "Why We Protest" panel held at the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center.

The panelists were representatives from Black Lives Matter, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), Congregate Charlottesville, and University of Virginia’s Students United.

On Tuesday night, the panelists had a candid discussion about how people can prepare for the anniversary of August 11 and 12.

"If it was not for protest, there would be no America," Lisa Woolfork, of Black Lives Matter, said. “This country was founded on resistance.”

Topics like free speech and protest took center stage at the panel.

“The split of the ‘alt-right’ happened because we showed up on August 12,” Anna, of SURJ, said.

Panelists said there are different ways to show support when it comes to protesting – sometimes it means simply showing up.

“You cannot stay at home and just be silent,” Anna said. “We cannot be silent in the face of fascist white supremacist violence, because that is what they want.”

Panelists said ignoring something is not the answer, especially when it comes to white supremacy.

“I have this little lump, but I'm just going to leave it,” Woolfork said. “I've got this big bad patch in the grass, but I’m just gonna leave it. This is not how we solve things - not just by letting it go and turning away."

The crowd got the chance to ask questions as well.

Some asked about how to address people who don’t share your opinions.

“Do you have any recommendations for conversation pieces that I can have with them, on, like, not villainizing them personally but also explaining it?” one audience member asked.

“It is our duty to talk to those people to help them unlearn white supremacy,” Anna said.

Lastly, the panel reminded people that this issue is not only in Charlottesville.

"Don't reduce it to one random crazy guy,” Anna said. “I hate that word ‘crazy.’ No! James Fields knew exactly what he was doing, OK?"

“It was never just about that 48-hour period,” Ivy Han, of UVA Students United, said. “It was always, it was before that, and it was after that. Charlottesville was unique, but it could have happened anywhere else."

If you missed the discussion on Tuesday night, another panel will be held on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at the Jefferson School about free speech and First Amendment rights.

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