by Kellen Squire
On Saturday, the “alt-right” is set invade Charlottesville, Virginia. Led by an unapologetic white supremacist who openly advocates for the creation of a white ethno-state, and joined by actual, real-life, Hitler-worshipping Nazis, they have promised to come and spread their message of hatred.
They’ve seen our community- our diversity, our strength, our progressive values… and they despise it. Why? Because it’s a direct affront to their morally bereft world view.
Think about it- if you know you’re right, and you have no qualms about it, you try and open a dialogue. You try and convince others to share your worldview; or try to change the minds of those who disagree with you. Seek understanding.
You don’t attack something unless it scares you. Threatens you. Threatens to expose the awful truth about yourself to the world at large.
Which is why they’ve decided they need to invade our community. We can’t stop them; they’ve chosen to ignore our wishes, ignore the city’s attempt to move their rally to a safer location. But what we can control is as much of our side as possible. And that means you all need good information on what’s going on, and how to respond.
As a background- I’m running for the House of Delegates in Central Virginia, and while my district doesn’t include this part of Charlottesville (having been gerrymandered to make sure it wasn’t), our community doesn’t end at the district border a scant half-mile away. I’m also an emergency department nurse with training and experience with mass casualty events. I deployed to Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina; while I was at UVA, we consulted and helped train the local version of FEMA on the island of St. Kitts and Nevis; and I was in Christiansburg, Virginia on the 16th of April, 2007, and was a part of a debriefing team for Dr. Marcus Martin, the chair of Governor Kaine’s Virginia Tech Shooting Panel.
So I want to lend some of that experience here, to help you understand what’s going on, what to expect, and how to respond to it.
What’s Going On
A rally of what’s predicted to be at least several hundred, if not a thousand or more, white supremacists, Nazis, and other neer-do-wells are set to descend upon Charlottesville, Virginia on Saturday. From 12pm-5pm, they were supposed to have a rally in Emancipation Park; however, their numbers swelled to the point the city asked them to move to Mcintire Park, a short distance away and a much larger venue.
Predictably, this was met with hostility, including a full-blown temper tantrum (even with stomping of feet, I understand) by the gentleman who engineered this rally, Jason Kessler. Apparently, they’ve vowed to ignore any attempt to move them, and to “stand up” to any attempt to “provoke violence”.
Now, it should be noted that Mr. Kessler’s group of folks have been hilariously overloaded with other groups wanting to hijack their function- or, well, it would be hilarious, if not for what these people represent. He even sent out a list today of “rules” he expected people to follow (such as no fat and ugly people allowed at the Nazi rally).
The problem is, many of these “hijackers” have stated, in no uncertain terms, that they’re only coming to cause trouble. And since they’re not even under the nominal control of anyone, well… you can see why some of us are pessimistic.
What To Expect
A pretty FUBAR situation.
Listen, these chucklefarks aren’t going to listen to anyone. They’re not there to open a dialogue with people. They’re there to cause trouble. And the problem is that they’re unpredictable, by their nature, and what they feed off of is attention. Like a three-year old that goes “MOM. MOM. MOM. MOM. MOM. MOM. MOM. MOM. MOM. MOM. MOM. MOM…” they will do whatever they can to get that attention.
Their favorite way to do that, and to build prestige amongst themselves? Who can cause the most grief- including, and preferably, violence.
Go to some of their internet dens, if you dare. It’s not fun, or for the faint of heart. 8chan. Stormfront. r/the_donald. Some of them get an almost sexual gratification off of the thought of beating up (or worse) anyone who’s an “anti-fa”- which, though it used to refer to the demi-anarchist group of “anti-fascists” that’s sprung up the past few years, now simply refers to anyone at all who disagrees with them.
What’s more is that I understand there is evidence to suggest an organized attempt amongst the alt-right folks to provoke violence; do something outrageously infuriating, be purposefully provocative, trying to have an excuse to scream “SELF DEFENSE FROM THIS VIOLENT LIBERALS!”
Don’t believe me? Watch the clip below, but it’s stomach churning.
— NRATV (@NRATV) August 9, 2017
Guys. The attorney general of the United States of America is Jeff Sessions. What more explanation do I need to put here? No, there’s no conspiracy reaching from Sessions down, but the old political adage of “never let a crisis go to waste” comes to mind.
Don’t give them what they want.
Now, that’s a more global sense, but what about specifically in the community- what can we expect?
We’ve got every EMS unit in a hundred miles on alert, and hospitals in that area, too. Because, for instance, if Lake Monticello Rescue Squad brings an ambulance into Charlottesville, someone needs to cover them. What if someone has a heart attack in Troy? Well, Louisa County might respond instead. This is why the event here will affect hundreds of thousands of people beyond our community- because then if that Louisa County squad is in Fluvanna County, and someone in Mineral has a stroke… the reverberations carry outwards.
Pretty much the best we can hope for is that all the area hospitals are at low census, meaning they’re relatively empty, and that no other stressors affect the medical system on Saturday. This can be unpredictable; for instance, the last mass casualty incident I participated in was during flu season several years ago. Thanks to Murphy’s Law, everyone that came down with it did so in the same weekend, resulting in an involuntary recall of all hospital personnel and 10-12 hour wait times in the ER- or longer!- with chairs and stretchers strewn down hallways.
We will simply have to hope and pray for the best here. There’s no other alternative.
How To Respond
Well, there are a whole slew of counter-events going on, starting as early as at 6am. Congregate Cville, a collaboration between local ministries to stand up to this hatred, is organizing events all day long, trying to keep folks away from the nonsense going on and provide a moral response to the hatred on display. For those who want to do something on the 12th, I suggest checking this group out.
We’ve suspended all campaign events for the weekend, canceled a weekend canvass we had planned, and I’ve told my campaign staff to go to an organized counter-event, stay home and phone bank, etc. Instead, on Sunday, we’re going to be spending a couple hours on Charlottesville’s downtown pedestrian mall, interacting as a community and spending money at the local small businesses that have had to close because of this event. A lot of these small business owners don’t operate on a whole lot of profit margin, and we want to support them after having to close to keep their employees and customers safe.
Because of that, we’re also spending some of our campaign money to buy food specifically at local businesses affected by this nonsense for the emergency services personnel who’ve been called in, held over (some of the EMS folks will work a full 24-hour shift, 6am-6am, and then be “held over” into the next shift until everything is clear), et cetera.
We’ve had offers to chip in from a number of other campaigns- state, federal, and local- including:
- Heather Hill, Charlottesville City Council candidate
- Angela Lynn, HOD-25
- Melissa Dart, HOD-56
- Ben Hixon, HOD-30
- Roger Dean Huffstetler, VA-05
- Andrew Sneathern, VA-05
- Adam Slate, VA-05
- Mary McIntyre, Albemarle County School Board candidate
- Brent Finnegan, HOD-26
As well as a few others who wanted to remain anonymous. But the fact that so many different folks want to chip in together is amazing- in particular, the 5th Congressional District candidates here put aside any differences they might have for what will promise to be an awfully tough primary process in order to step up and help our community. It’s really heartening.
The outlying House of Delegates campaigns are all chipping in because the folks from their districts will be affected by this- and if a Louisa, Orange, or Western Albemarle crew ended up at a local hospital because they were responding to a call in territory they were covering because the local folks were tied up in the rally, they might literally have only just enough time to drop the patient off and scream back out, up to fifty miles away- and then repeat this indefinitely. So having something quick and easy to grab for food is essential.
And not only that, they’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do. My hat is off to them; I know personally how tight campaign budgets are, and to donate part of it like this is nothing short of amazing.
But if you feel the absolute need to wade into the thick of things, then here is a manual from Lifehacker on how to protest peacefully and legally, as well as another from the ACLU on your rights as a protester. If you want to donate money, Charlottesville Clergy Collective’s Beloved Community, benefitting four local nonprofit organizations, is a great place; we sent out our weekly fundraising email today, but are donating all the money we raise to feeding the emergency services folks, with the remainder donated to Beloved Community.
But the bottom line is, simply- stay safe. Remember we’re on the winning side. We’re the good guys; if we stand up together against it, united as one, this will all simply be a paroxysmal spasm of a dying breed of morally bereft losers.
Let’s get it done, and move on to November, where we’ll take back the Virginia House of Delegates and be the tip of the spear in the fight back against Trumpism!