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UVA Hosts an Event for Unity and Reflection on the August 11 Anniversary

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President Ryan speaking in Old Cabell Hall President Ryan speaking in Old Cabell Hall
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

Members of the University of Virginia and the Charlottesville community gathered Saturday morning for The Hope that Summons Us: A Morning of Reflection and Renewal at the Old Cabell Hall Auditorium. The event served as an opportunity to reflect on last year's violent demonstrations on the Lawn and to discuss how to move forward. 

"It’s important that we're here together," said UVA President James E. Ryan. 

In addition to President Ryan’s speech, the event featured instrumental and community choral performances, a poetry reading and a catered breakfast. 

Supreme Court of Virginia retiree, the Honorable John Charles Thomas, was also in attendance. Hon. Thomas said, "We are one year away from events that brought hurt and harm to our community."

During The Hope that Summons Us event, President Ryan acknowledged that the university did not respond appropriately to the grave circumstances of last year's white supremacist march across UVA's Grounds.

"We must admit to mistakes including those made last year understanding and trusting that others understand that mistakes and times of crises are inevitable," President Ryan said. "We do more than recognize our common humanity to say to those who were attacked around the statue last year. I am sorry. We are sorry."

Students and community members also hoped to express their solidarity with those affected by the events of last August.  

"I was really happy to be there. I wasn't able to be here last year, so for me, it was also just an issue of coming and showing support in a way that I couldn't before," said UVA student Julia Rupp.

But despite the event's peaceful purpose, barricades restricted public access to the Lawn and security enforced a clear bag policy and screening for attendees. 

"I know a lot of students are concerned about the over-policing. There's such a heavy police presence here right now and I think that there's a lot of people who think that's unnecessary," said Rupp.

In spite of concerns about heightened security and last year's mistakes, President Ryan says UVA will continue to be committed to living the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. "I believe in the face of tragedy, having endured some myself, that we can still find the strength to move forward that we must."

This event is the university’s attempt to begin the anniversary weekend with a demonstration of unity and an opportunity for reflection. 

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