CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - Three years ago, violence erupted in Charlottesville, as white nationalists and counter-protesters clashed at the “Unite the Right” rally. The ensuing violence and car attack killed three and injured dozens more. Wednesday, community members gathered to reflect, mourn and heal.
Yenyu Lin, a graduate student at the University of Virginia, placed flowers at Heather Heyer Way before heading to the “Reclaim Market Street Park” event.
Three years ago, she was brand new to the community.
“August 11th and 12th was my first weekend in the United States,” Lin said.
It was at that park, formerly known as Lee Park, where white nationalists gathered over plans to remove the Robert E. Lee confederate statue. The event turned deadly and gained national attention. This August 12th, community members took it upon themselves to take the park back into their own hands.
“We’re reclaiming this space because this once was adjacent to Vinegar Hill,” Zyahna Bryant, UVA student and activist, said. “Vinegar Hill was demolished and Black people and indigenous people have a history of being removed and being violently abused in many different ways by this city, so by taking this space today we’re not only reclaiming the narrative of August 12, we’re reclaiming the narrative of our city.
Community organizers set up tents for prayer, dancing, and communion. Roads were also blocked off for the event.
“We’re here to role model radical consent, the fact that we keep us safe, not the police,” said Amanda Moxham, who helped organize the event. “And that we can have a beautiful event here in which people are kept safe and can trust that the organizers are going to keep them safe.”
The community coming together to reconcile with an emotional past.
“I guess no matter what racial category you belong, obviously I’m not white, I’m not black. But, I still think this is about humanity. I don’t want to forget about it,” Lin said.
The group reclaimed the park beginning at 1 p.m. Some streets surrounding the park reopened just after 7 p.m.